Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thaksin tells Forbes about advising his sister and digging gold in Africa

Thaksin Shinawatra tells Forbes magazine that he speaks a few times a week, or more, to Premier Yingluck -- often on family affairs but also to advise on official matters.

Forbes quoted him as saying in an exclusive interview in Dubai recently:

"Sometimes when there's a hot issue we talk more. Because I know the people, I know the law, I know international protocols. She is new. She doesn't need to call me, but when she does, I can give her the answers immediately. Because I am sitting here foing nothing..."

Tim Ferguson, who interviewed Thaksin, reported that Thaksin said he had $1 billion of the seized funds returned to him.

The former prime minister said he had so far invested about $30 million in mining in Africa.

He was quoted as saying that he had got concessions for exploration in Uganda and Tanzania, and titanium concession in Zimbabwe.

"We found gold and titanium already...the first report will come out next month and some will come out in January. We will start (mining) gold in Tanzania in February (2013). Uganda will come next year. ..we also found a very good reserve of platinum in Uganda.." he said.

He was asked at one point: Have you ever got your money fromt he Shin Corp process back?

Thaksin said: "I got back part of it, about $1 billion...That's why I have money to invest."

Thaksin said he had got out of the coal mining project in South Africa..."I've been trapped into conflict with a partner. So I get out..."

When he was told that he was very familiar with the policy direction of the current Thai government (discussing the controversial rice pledging project), Thaksin responded:

"This policy, I am the one who thinks. Like our slogan during the campaign, Thaksin thinks, Pheu Thai acts."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New Pheu Thai leader Charupong in perfect harmony with his No 2

As expected, Charupong Ruangsuwan was elected unchallenged as the new leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party today to replace Yongyuth Vichaidith who quit to avoid a legal controversy.
Charupong has come a long way. His rise was also quite predictable since he was named to the Cabinet even before Yingluck Shinawatra became prime minister.
He was asked on radio just now whether he would consult Thaksin Shinawatra in what he will do now as party leader. His answer was direct and unmistakable: "Khun Thaksin is an important person of the party. He was the founder of Thai Rak Thai which became Palang Prachachon after it was disbanded. Now, I don't consider him a criminal. He has done nothing wrong. So, it would be quite natural for me and the other party members to consult him over various policy issues."
Asked whether he could work with Bhoomtham Vejjayachai, who was named party secretary-general, Charupong, who has moved from the communications portfolio to the interior ministry's top post int he new line-up, was quick to declare:
"We can work very well together," he said.
And when the radio programme host teased him: "Who's boss, you or the secretary general?" His prompt response was: "Oh, we consult each other. We work together."


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Anti-government rally at a horse race-course: Neither big nor small

Our reporters say the anti-government rally at the Royal Turf Club today, led by retired Gen Boonlert Kaewprasit, went smoothly. The turnout was not was big as the organizers had hoped. Nor was it as small as police had claimed. Security was tight. But there were no untoward incidents. The chief organizer said the rally would end at 5.30 pm. He called on those who came today to come back for another one soon.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Why does Jatuporn say he has to 'swallow blood'?

Thai papers this morning reported on Jatuporn Promporn's comments about his not being on the new Cabinet list. He was quoted as saying that he would have to "swallow blood." That means he would have to suffer the pain of not being recognized by the Pheu Thai Party.
Daily News' front page headline screamed: "Thaksin flies in to clear up Yingluck 3 Cabinet chaos."
Thaksin Shinawatra, according to another report, is due in the Myanmar border town of Tachilek probably early next month. His arrival there -- and the dissenting voice from red-shirt leader Thida Tavornseth over Jatuporn's absence from the new line-up -- has probably triggered speculation about a possible crack between some red-shirts and Pheu Thai Party's leadership. If that's the case, Thaksin is supposed to calm things down before they explode into a major issue.

Friday, October 26, 2012

PM Yingluck says this new Cabinet line-up is really her own work

"Defies" may be putting it a bit too dramatically. But there are signs that the younger sister may have tried to push the limits a bit more aggressively with her elder brother.

Premier Yingluck Shinawatra insists: "I did it myself." And to a degree, she might be telling the truth. It's difficult, however, to convince a cynical Thai public that her brother Thaksin has nothing to do with compiling the list of the 3rd Yingluck Cabinet at all.
The fact that Kittirat na Ranong remains deputy premier and finance minister goes some distance to prove that Yingluck can overrule Thaksin over issues over which she is determined to exercise her authority as the prime minister. But the inclusion of some prominent "Group of 111" -- those who have just emerged from a five-year political ban -- in the new line-up points to Thaksin's clear influence over the reshuffle.
The choices, obviously, have nothing to do with the principle of "putting the right person in the right job." Most of the new Cabinet members have been named to their positions either because of their affiliations with important factions within Pheu Thai Party or under the unofficial "quota system" to pay political debts.
The premier says she didn't time the Cabinet shakeup (a total of 22 positions are affected) to avoid confronting the Opposition's threat to submit a House censure debate (due to be filed Oct 31). Her official reason for the changes was that two ministers -- Interior Minister Yongyuth Vichaidith and Agriculture Minister Teera Wongsawmud -- have called it quits, necessitating changes in the line-up anyway.
The real reason, of course, is that pressure has been building from various factions within the party, among the red-shirts and members of the "Group of 111" to again start the Merry-Go-Round rotating once again.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Thai kids' low IQ: It's the education, stupid!

Thai kids’ IQ and EQ haven’t improved in the past ten years. Our children aged 6-15 are far behind those of Singpore and Malaysia. Bhutan, which is economically behind Thailand, has placed more emphasis on improving its children’s IQ than this country.

Those are some of the disturbing findings by a recent study cited by the Senate’s Health Subcommittee, whose chairman Surin Senator Dr Anant Ariyachaiyanich, said if the trend continues, today’s children won’t grow up to be intellectually and emotionally competent enough to compete with those on the regional, not to mention international, stage.

The study, conducted by the Mental Health Department of the Public Health Ministry, found children in 20 provinces with IQ rated at 100 and 38 other provinces below the 100 threshold.

The initial conclusion is that the factor contributing to lower IQ was diet. The survey found that children fed with their mother’s own milk for six months had a higher IQ than those drinking mom’s milk for only three months. Other factors include consumption of iodine and iron minerals.

What was left without so much of a mention was social environment and parents’ core values. Most important perhaps was the country’s hopeless education system.

The diet issue can be resolved with a clear-cut policy on nutrition budgetary allocations based on scientific studies. Populist policies have diverted considerable amounts of money to various grass-roots political organs. Now is the time to feed our children the make sure they grow up as healthy citizens.

But the real challenge lies in revamping the country’s education system if the IQ and EQ gradings of our next generation of citizens are to become much more competitive than they stand now.

The past ten years have seen great improvement in our dietary provisions. If, therefore, studies have found that Thai kids’ IQ and EQ scores have failed to rise with the passage of time, diet certainly isn’t the main issue anymore. Education is the weakest link here.

None of the governments in the past decades has managed to uplift the country’s education standards in a meaningful way despite glowing electioneering pledges. Most of the budget for this ministry has gone towards administration costs and wages, leaving very little for real improvement of standards of teachers in all fields.

A large number of teachers are either unqualified or heavily in debt. The teaching profession, once held in great esteem, has been eroding to the point that they don’t command the kind of respect previously shown by students and parents alike.

What’s worse, politicians have exploited the limited budgetary allocations for the country’s educational activities for their own ends. Good, qualified bureaucrats are sidelined while those ready to serve their political bosses take charge of the most important roles in the country’s education system.

As a result, students don’t get the kind of quality schooling that make them inquisitive, imaginative and ethical. When teachers discourage our young kids from asking questions, the young minds aren’t developed to boost the kind of IQ that is required of a youngster. Science and mathematics have fallen by the waysides and a good command of foreign languages has become an exception rather than the rule.

When IQ is lower, it is inevitable that our children’s EQ also suffers. A series of surveys have found that a rising number of our young people say they could “accept” corruption in higher places if they stand to benefit from those undesirable activities. In other words, the ethical standards of the new generation have fallen to an alarmingly low level.

The ultimate paradox is that the Senate committee that has expressed deep concern about the declining IQ and EQ scores of our young people say their solution is to submit these findings to the full Senate so that they can be forwards to the Cabinet for solutions.

My suspicion is that the higher up we go in this country, the level of IQ and EQ probably get lower. The failure of our education standards began decades ago. And that malaise begins at the top.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Even her critics agree Yingluck should be in charge of her own govt

Premier Yingluck Shinawatra has repeated the phrase often enough – to the point that she might finally be convinced of the statement herself: “I am the prime minister and I am in charge.”

Even die-hard skeptics will have to admit that the premier has recently demonstrated a higher degree of confidence in her work --- so much so that I could sense that even the opposition Democrats may be resigned to the fact that she will be in power for a while yet.

Of course, you can still say she has been putting up a brave face out of exasperation rather than the realization that she has been voted in to lead the government, and not to serve merely as her brother’s puppet.

Premier Yingluck has made it a point to appoint herself the

chairperson for all the national issues, from the southern crisis to the anti-flood war room. In most cases, when she was confronted with rising criticisms on certain policy issues, and when she looked around and couldn’t find any Cabinet member who could handle the confidence-sapping issues, Premier Yingluck has simply jumped in and declared herself in charge.

You can say it’s a welcoming sign of a growing sense of leadership for someone who has been accused of being nothing more than a figurehead. Or you can also say that it reflects a deepening sign of exasperation: She just doesn’t have enough capable people around her.

But I was struck by her latest public statement insisting that her brother Thaksin isn’t making any decision on the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle. “I am in charge. I make the choices.”

The fact that the premier appeared with her sister, Yaowapa Wongswasdi (better known as Sister Daeng), the following day in a Chinatown function, might have further stirred speculation about the elder sister’s influence in Yingluck’s government. But if she could “dismiss” Thaksin from her sphere of influence, she could probably, at least on the record, also effectively distance herself from Yaowapa.

The fact that some Pheu Thai MPs were flying to Hong Kong over the weekend, leaking the news that they were there to discuss the rumoured Cabinet changes with Thaksin, didn’t help confirm the premier’s “single command” authority, of course. But Yingluck was emphatic that the MPs were only meeting her brother for a social get-together.

She didn’t say it in that many words but one could interpret that to mean the premier was telling her own MPs that they were only wasting their time lobbying with her brother. The real power lies at Government House right in Bangkok here. Or that’s what her message was supposed to say.

If anything, she has at least stalled those close to her brother who have been pressing for an early Cabinet shake-up. Yingluck has made it clear that she will tackle the flood before getting down to the new Cabinet list.

Nobody knows whether Thaksin thinks his sister is become “too independent.” But it is clear that he would not want to put so much pressure on the prime minister that she might just quit if she isn’t seen to be running her own show, at least from now on anyway.

As it stands now, Thaksin needs his sister more than the other way round. That’s why he and his close aides have delayed the campaign for the constitutional amendments and passage of the amnesty bill so that the premier could gather sufficient breathing space to ensure the government’s stability.

That’s also why, you might have noticed, Thaksin has not been talking about coming home as often and as vehemently as he had done earlier.

The real irony is that the better Yingluck performs as premier, the more difficult it would be for Thaksin to try to pave the way for his own return.

Now even her harshest critics may begin to believe that she is really her own self. Don’t be surprised therefore that she might get more support even from those who can’t stand her brother.

Friday, October 5, 2012

PM Yingluck says she is the one making decisions

Take it from her. Premier Yingluck insists that if there are changes in the Cabinet, she would be the one to make the decisions, not her brother Thaksin Shinawatra.
It doesn't matter that a group of MPs from her Pheu Thai Party are said to have flown to Hong Kong to "discuss Cabinet changes" with Thaksin. All the rumours about Thaksin picking this and that person for this and that post in the government doesn't bother her. The PM says she is in charge and what the MPs are doing are just their own personal activity.
She is the PM. You've got to believe her.