Thursday, January 27, 2011

Coup? What coup?

Nobody knows how the rumour got started. But the coup speculation has been a hot topic in the past week. Very few people believe it could happen, at least for now...but still you can't stop Thais from asking one another: "Have you heard the latest?"

AFP today quoted Thai authorities denying it again.

The report says the Thai government today denied opposition claims that it faces a military coup amid intensifying street protests and ahead of expected elections.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva rejected the suggestion, by a politician and leader of the anti-government 'Red Shirts', that the army was poised to intervene in Thai politics.

'No, they are not thinking of a coup,' he said, adding he was 'confident' that army chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha was not plotting to oust him.

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban also denied the claims, but acknowledged some in the deeply divided nation would support a military move - which would be the 19th actual or attempted coup in Thailand since 1932.

'There may be some groups calling for a coup, but don't call for that, it's not the solution for our country,' he said, less than five years after the military ousted the Red Shirts' hero then premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Army spokesman Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumnerd also denied any such plans. 'The army chief had repeatedly insisted that he will not stage a coup and in the current circumstances, no military figure would dare to mount a coup,' he said.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Army chief: If you have a better solution, tell me about it

Army Chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has a short fuse. His outbursts against critics are now well-known. And it doesn't seem like he is ready to tone down his rebuttals against any criticism about activities under his jurisdiction.

Soon after the latest raid against an army base in Narathiwat earlier this week, he was apparently miffed by critical remarks suggesting that the army had "failed" in its anti-terror campaign in the South.

"Have we failed all along since 2004? Have soldiers died because we have failed? That's not the case. Everybody should offer encouragement.The military has done its best. Everything depends on the changing situations and we have been trying to adjust to those changes. Anyone who thinks he has a better solution, please tell me -- be it an ex-soldier or anyone at all. I am ready to listen to all opinons. But don't think that only your opinions are correct. No matter whether you are the media or academics. If you say things and you aren't responsible for them, don't say it. But if you are ready to be responsible for what you say, then, I can accept it...."

Friday, January 21, 2011

The various shades of Yellow

Phra Potirak, left, and Chamlong Srimuang, both say they remain in close contacts. But observers have suggested that while Chamlong remains the core of the "mainstream yellow shirts," the leader of Santi Asoke has distanced himself from the People Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

Phra Potirak has publicly declared that he is backing Veera Somkwamkid, who has split from PAD to form his "Patriots" network, who is now in jail in Cambodia while PAD's core leaders have described Veera as "fake yellow" meaning that PAD doesn't recognize the "Patriots" as part of their movement.

Phra Potirak is also showing full support for Chaiwat Sinsuwong, who was arrested earlier this week on the old charge of terrorism while he was part of he mainstream yellow movement.

Now, where does Chamlong stand? Is he the "original yellow" and if so, how does he view Veera and Chaiwat who are being supported by Phra Potirak?

Very interesting time indeed!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The best of friends with no love lost between them

They look like old pals but nobody knows what they both think of each other. Publicly, they embrace each other for the sake of Pheau Thai's unity.Privately, reporters who have talked to them tell different stories.

But then, that's nothing to write home about in politics.

Chalerm Yoobamrung has just declared that he might set up a new political party,
tentatively called the "New Alternative Party" perhaps with Chuwit Kamolvisit, the colourful businessman-turned-politician, and Nitipoom Nawarat, a Thai Rath columnist who has run for elections in Bangkok before.

Interestingly enough, Chalerm made that announcement soon after Mingkwan Saengsuwan has obtain endorsement from Thaksin Shinawatra to lead the upcoming no-confidence debate against the government. Last time, it was Chalerm who led the attack in the House.

Has Chalerm gone out of favour with Thaksin? Nobody knows. But as soon as Chalerm learned about Mingkwan's new role, he began to leak news to reporters that he was contemplating a new party.

"I have talked to Chuwit but not yet to Nitipoom. Combined, the two have won over a million votes from Bangkokians," Chalerm said.

He said he had proposed a three-point suggestion to Pheau Thai and depending on the party's response, he would proceed to decide whether to set up a new party or not.

The three proposals from Chalerm to Pheau Thai: 1. The party must make Thaksin the "selling point." 2. Bangkok's electoral constituency must be divided into three zones and 3. The party must speak with one voice.

Well, obviously, Chalerm isn't speaking with the same voice and the rest of the party in the first place.

Has he talked to Thaksin about his ideas?

"No, I have never talked to him anyway..."

Politicians don't usually talk in any logical way. So, why do you expect Chalerm to be different?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Will Virabongsa swim with the sharks?

I personally don't think he will take the plunge. He is a cautious man and he can't stand politics. But then, rumours persist that Virabongsa Ramangkura will somehow play a major role in Pheau Thai Party soon.

That Thaksin Shinawatra trusts him to lead his party isn't a question. But for Virabongsa, former deputy premier and ex-finance minister, to accept the offer to head the party sounds too far-fetched. The latest round of speculation says that Thaksin will let Mingkwan Saengsuwan lead the no-confidence debate against the government while his sister Yingluck Shinawatra will serve as the "real boss" behind the scenes.

If that's the case, where does Virabongsa fit in? Well, Mingkwan is seen as a "front-man" who will be set aside if he fails to put a dent on the government in the censure debate. That will leave Yingluck the real party's controller. Up front though, Virabongsa can, if he so decides, to act as the official party leader.

Thaksin doesn't have that many choices. Virabongsa, on the other hand, can choose not to throw himself into political hubbub if he remains his usual self.

Friday, January 7, 2011

It's Yingluck....and Mingkwan too...

Has Thaksin Shinawatra decided who's to be Pheau Thai Party's leader?

He might have deliberately made it vague so far. He might also have said different things to different people. Last week, a group of Pheau Thai MPs who claimed to have met him said Mingkwan Saengsuwan would be given a chance to prove his worth by leading the upcoming no-confidence motion against the government in Parliament.

If he could make a dent in the Abhisit government, then, Thaksin may consider naming his the party leader and that means he could also be the next PM if Pheau Thai can form the next government after the election.

Yesterday, however, a Pheau Thai MP, Chaiya Promma, from Nongbualampu, was quoted by INN News as saying that Thaksin had decided to name his own sister, Yingluck, to be the Pheau Thai head while Mingkwan would b named to head the censure debate, and would stand a chance to be the next PM.

That, of course, is still confusing. But at least the choices have been narrowed down to two: Yingluck of course is the political heir. Mingkwan plays the role of a front-man.

Perhaps, that's not as confusing as it looks, after all.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

No Thai smiles at Cambodian court this morning

The seven Thais, led by Democrat MP Panich Vikitseth, are being led to the court in Phnom Penh this morning. They face charges of illegal border crossing and trespassing into military areas. Some of them could also face espionage charge.

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva says the seven had no ill intention. His Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen insists that the seven Thais must go through the local judicial procedure, having rejected the Thai government's request to release the Thais.

Veera Somkuamkid, an activist who had been arrested on similar charges before, appeared more worried than Panich when they arrived at the Phnom Penh court this morning. His repeated offence is being seen as a huge legal disadvantage for him.

The Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman says attempts will be made to seek bails for all the seven Thais.

Foreign Minister Kasit Biromya insists that every one of the seven Thais will be given equal assistance, rejecting rumours that only Panich,a former vice foreign affairs minister, would be granted help by the Thai government.

Thai-Cambodian ties have come under a new degree of tension once again.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Coup? Army chief asks: Who's going to do it?

Army Commander-in-Chief Gen Prayuth Em-Ocha isn't known for mincing words. But when it comes to answering questions about the possibility of another coup, he suddenly turned quite ambiguous, and deliberately so perhaps.

Here are some of the questions and his answers in a bantering with reporters just before the end of the year:

Q: You aren't leading the army to do anything in the new year, are you?

Prayuth: I can't order them to do anything without abiding by the law. I have to get permission from the government if I want to do anything like that.

Q: Does that include a possible coup?

Prayuth: Coup hasn't arrived. Nobody wants to do it anyway.

Q: What the chances of a coup NOT taking place next year?

Prayuth: 100% perhaps. It's possibly 100% at this point. Who is going to do it?

Q: The army chief.

Prayuth: (Laughter). I don't know. You reporters say my huang jui is good. Don't be serious about it. If the media ask me that question, I would have to answer it this way. The media have done its duty. Soldiers are people and people must love democracy. I only ask that it must be democracy under the monarchy -- and don't violate the royal institution. Those who want to quarrel would have to fight it out through legal means...