Blame Yingluck for climate change

2 07 2015

Yingluck Shinawatra has been blamed for many things by her political opponents. Some of the accusations descended to base misogyny. In a report at the Bangkok Post, Nipon Poapongsakorn of the royalist Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) says that “the current water shortage has its origin in the mega-flood that hit the country in 2011.”

We tend to agree with this and with his statement that: “It [drought] is the failure of the water management policy. Drought and flooding are related problems and cannot be managed separately…”.

We are a little less sanguine about this as the bureaucrats are ignored:

In the wake of the disastrous flooding, the Yingluck Shinawatra government adopted a policy to maintain low water levels in the Sirikit dam in Uttraradit and the Bhumibol dam in Tak, to create capacity to collect water during heavy downpours.

PPT has few doubts that the Irrigation Department has become reluctant to store large amounts of water in dams after being severely criticized in 2011. Nipon’s other claim is, we think, him being nothing more than royalist critic:

Later in 2013, the Yingluck government introduced the rice-pledging scheme, which significantly increased rice planting in the Central region and required a large amount of water for paddy fields.

Nipon always hated this scheme, as did many of the other royalists at TDRI. Yet much of the criticism of Yingluck and her government ignored the fact that she and her government had only been in place a couple of months before the deluge, yet she and her government copped a lot of the blame for the 2011 flooding.

Nipon seems to be blaming Yingluck for everything including natural forces, climate change and more. Yet consider this report in the Asia Times:

Thailand and Vietnam, the world’s two largest rice exporters, face severe drought conditions that threaten to severely undermine this year’s crops and global supplies. Climate change and El Nino are variously being blamed for the unusually hot weather and lack of rainfall, which began with an early end to last year’s tropical rainy season.

We should quickly add that this report is dated 2 July 2010. That’s today, five years ago. According to a research paper, the 2010 droughts and floods:

… provided evidence of increasing extreme weather events in Thailand. In 2010, Thailand experienced the worst droughts and the second worst floods in the past two decades. Because the tropical rainy season ended earlier than usual in November 2009, together with global warming and the El Niño phenomenon, Thailand experienced unusually hot weather and a lack of rainfall at the beginning of 2010. As the country entered the hot season in March, experts had issued national drought warnings, and these droughts stretched until almost the end of August. The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department declared 64 provinces to be disaster areas because of severe water shortages. The drought had an adverse impact on more than 4 million people, mainly through damaged agricultural production. The drought damaged 2746 km² of farmland with the estimated loss of 1.5 billion baht (US$46 million; Rerngnirunsathit 2012). Later in the year, Thailand experienced a series of flash floods and seven incidents of flooding. From 15 July to 30 December 2010, all regions in Thailand were hit by floods caused by the La Niña phenomenon, which brought about higher than average rainfall and a longer period of precipitation. The southern part was further hit by a tropical depression, which brought about heavy rainfall and flash floods lasting from 1 November 2010 to 25 February 2011. A combination of inadequate drainage and a well above average rainfall intensity left the country totally unprepared for the disaster. The death toll from the floods stands at 266 people with 1665 people injured. In total, 74 provinces were affected by the floods, 17,455 km² of farmland was damaged with the total estimated loss of 16 billion baht (US$536.6 million; Rerngnirunsathit 2012). A long, severe drought prolonged beyond the first half of the year, followed by destructive floods later in the year, made 2010 a unique year to study the impacts of climate variability.

Perhaps not so unique. The 2011 floods followed extraordinary rainfall in early 2011.

But, heck, if a royalist, let’s blame Yingluck for floods, droughts and for time slowing down.





Prem reincarnated?

10 09 2014

Bangkok Pundit has a recent post suggesting that the grand old man of political maneuvering for the palace-military alliance may be sulking as he feels he’s being pushed aside. General Prem Tinsulanonda, president of the Privy Council, has had a major say in politics and especially on military promotions for five decades.

PremWe are not sure if the old man is sulking or is aged, sick and weak, a bit like his junior, the king. He’s 94 and the last time we saw him, he was frail and not quite making sense. Senility? Illness? Both? Whatever it is, he’s being replaced by a generation of military men who are 30 years younger and “battle-hardened” from their murderous attacks on red shirts.

These are the generals who will take over the management of the royalist elite’s bigger decisions: General Prawit Wongsuwan, General Anupong Paojinda and General Prayuth Chan-ocha. These mean are more or less from the same generation and have pretty good relations. They are determined royalists with long-term palace relationships.

Some might think that the transition represents a major change. We are not so sure. We think the rejigging has been underway for some time and will probably see them reporting to their old boss General Surayud Chulanont in the Privy Council. The Privy Council is full of very old men and we don’t foresee any major changes there unless Prem dies before the king.

What is clear is that the military dictatorship is Prem-oriented and is unlikely to need to clash with him. The links to Prem and his style in government have been clear for some time since the coup. Prayuth as Prem

As if to emphasize this, Prayuth has just paraded before the cameras dressed as Prem, as seen in the two pictures appended to this post. Prayuth has garbed himself in the shirt that Prem made famous when prime minister in the 1980s.

We think the omens are about Premocracy. Thai-style shirts inevitably mean Thai-style democracy.





Martial law by numbers

21 05 2014

Bangkok Pundit has a useful post that sets out the announcement of martial law, the law used, and the 12 orders issued by the military.





Another plan

7 05 2014

Almost a week ago PPT posted on chatter about a backroom deal being done to end the current political crisis and move beyond the impasse. We have also posted on Abhisit Vejjajiva’s “plan” and the very similar “plan” proposed by another Democrat Party premiership hopeful, Surin Pitsuwan.

There’s a pattern in this: all “plans” and the chatter reflect the hopes, desires and fears of anti-democrats.

PPT almost never posts anything by the bright yellow conspiracy theorist Thanong Khanthong for fear that someone may think we are taking him seriously. However, his rant a few days ago, at The Nation, is interesting for making the chatter more obvious and detailing the sources for much of the chatter.

Thanong states:

An unelected government is now widely believed to be waiting in the wings to take the reigns of power. Yingluck Shinawatra is set to be removed from power either by the National Security Council transfer case or the rice pledging scandal…. Following her conviction, an unelected administration would be formed via special clauses in the Constitution. This mechanism is nothing if not controversial….

Why has it come to this? Thanong explains that it is because Suthep Thaugsuban’s street protests can’t bring down the Yingluck Shinawatra government and stall elections and because military boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha refuses to run a coup.

On Suthep, the ultra-yellows are bored with him:

In fact, there was a window of opportunity to remove Yingluck on March 27, one day before the Senate election. Suthep summoned a mass rally, marching at its head all the way … to Parliament, where hundreds of thousands of protesters roamed Government House and Parliament. On that day, he was supposed to stage a people’s revolution – without tearing up the Constitution. Expectations were that Suthep would resort to Article 3 of the Constitution, which states that sovereign power belongs to the people, and to Article 7, which allows the appointment of an interim prime minister under special circumstances…. In this scenario, the military would come out in support of the “people’s revolution”. But the political script fell apart. For some reason Suthep chose not to go through with it, and hence the crisis has continued.

In other words, Suthep has done his job.

On Prayuth and the anti-democrat calls for a coup, Thanong “explains”: “ASTV analysts suspect he has a strong and longstanding relationship with Yingluck and Thaksin. Or, in other words, that he belongs to the other side of the political divide.”

Quite apart from the fact that PPT hasn’t ever before seen the connection between ASTV and analysis previously, this speculation by a propaganda arm of the anti-democrats leads Thanong to conclude that: “The scenario is somewhat farcical, a political merry-go-round: Suthep would like to kick out Yingluck; Prayuth is friends with Yingluck and does not want to kick her out; Suthep is friends with Prayuth and supports his stance.” Hence, the political impasse.

Thanong says the final hope is that, with the red shirts “weakened dramatically and they now fail to muster broad public support,” it will be that “Yingluck will be ousted by the independent agencies – not by Suthep and all the efforts of his mass protests. This is so ironic.”

Note that many media outlets agree that Yingluck will be removed today, and that her cabinet may be turfed out as well. Bangkok Pundit has a post on these scenarios.

If this removal comes about today, Thanong and many others who glow yellow will cheer and again note the irony – although PPT and many others have described the creeping judicial coup for several months.

Yet there is still a role for Suthep, although Thanong doesn’t see it. If red shirts protest, Suthep and his anti-democrats will be required to “protect” the court’s and “independent” agencies. And, if the decision today only removes Yingluck, many anti-democrats will want a final street push to remove the elected government. That removal will follow the Thanong-Surin scenario of manipulating the constitutional clauses related to the monarchy.

 





Bizarre and strange II

25 02 2014

PPT has received another of the anti-democrat press releases. It begins:

(24 Feb. 2014) PDRC Spokesperson Akanat Promphan harshly berated the slayings of children and innocent citizens in Trat and Ratchaprasong in which at least 3 children aged between 4 – 6 years and 1 adult were killed and over 50 injured in the last 36 hours.

“The bombings are not ordinary attacks – they are attempted massacres,” condemned Akanat. “We suspect that the assailants were professionally trained and the operations pre-meditated. M16s and M79s – weapons of war – were launched at unsuspecting, unarmed masses of peaceful citizens in public spaces. Children were clearly present at both Saen Tung Ying Charoen Market and Big C Rajdamri yet the murderers still attacked. Simply put, these were planned and organized acts of terror. We strongly believe the terrorists intended to intimidate those demonstrating against Yingluck Shinawatra and the Thaksin regime.”

This is as one would expect, blaming the current regime for the violence. Suthep Thaugsuban reckons “Cambodians” were involved, and this is an old, hyper-nationalist rant that has no evidence to back it, but the claim is one that builds on similar claims he made against red shirts back in 2010, claiming the foreign insurgents were in the pay of Thaksin Shinawatra. This was a similarly a claim made with no evidence.

So these deaths become a part of the political struggle and again this is as would be expected in the current circumstances.

What is bizarre and strange is the response to Yingluck’s statement on the events. She stated, initially at a Facebook page, as translated by Bangkok Pundit:

[I] condemn the use of violence that caused injuries and deaths especially at Rajaprasong intersection because it resulted in the death of a child which is lamentable…. I want to express sorrow to those injured and to the family members of those killed.

She added:

These are acts of terror in order for political benefit without regard for human life. The government will not allow this and I have ordered government agencies to find the perpetrators quickly and without exception [regardless of who they are]

Reasonable people might consider this also to be the kind of response that the premier should make immediately following such a tragic event. But not the anti-democrats. They responded in their press release this way:

Spokesperson Akanat condemned Yingluck’s Facebook reaction to the Trat and Ratchaprasong killings. “Both the medium and the message were insulting. First, condolences for such a grave occasion warrant a personal appearance by the caretaker PM. Using social media as the initial conduit makes the messenger appear insincere. We don’t even know who wrote the post.

Second, the message was offensive because Yingluck politicized the slayings. The Facebook posting labelled the Trat and Ratchaprasong incidents “terrorist acts for political gains,” described Akanat. “Her politicization of these murders is tasteless and manipulative. For the first time in the onslaught of anti-demonstrator violence, she vows to bring the culprits to justice because ‘the government will not tolerate terrorism,’ but completely refuses to address previous incidents.

This response ignores their own politicization of the event earlier in their press release, which was also posted to their Facebook page…. The anti-democrats, now controlled by the extremists, seems to only speak to its own true believers. The middle ground is as narrow as a knife-edge.





Elections, shooters and pretenders

7 02 2014

This is a bit of a news roundup from PPT, of things we’d like to say more on but just don’t have time.

We just saw a report by Kocha Olarn who is CNN International’s producer in Bangkok. He was caught in the shooting at Laksi last Saturday, and contrary to what General Prayuth Chan-ocha has said, he was initially with pro-election/red shirt marchers. His account is of how they were attacked and shot by anti-democrat shooters. The shooters he saw seem like well-trained military types, apparently using snipers and two-man teams of shooters, with the latter shown in the video. They have body armor and other pictures have shown radios. They really look like military. Little wonder that Prayuth has been so voluble in denial and antagonistic.

At New Mandala, Nick Nostitz has just posted his account of the Laksi events, with his usual graphic photos.

After the anti-democrat shooting, there was the 2014 election. Chris Baker has an analysis of the voting at New Mandala and Bangkok Pundit has another.

Failed ministerOld prince Mom Ratchawong Pridiyathorn Devakula caused a kerfuffle yesterday calling on the government to resign via an open letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

(Actually, we should say “young” as the wealthy prince – he an his wife were worth 1 billion baht back in 2009 – is only in his late 60s, and most of the old duffers who think they should be running the country are a lot older than this!)

He’s been praised by the anti-democrats, but given that he is one of them, this is no surprise (see his “patriotic” pocket square in the picture). Opponents accused Pridiyathorn of wanting to be an appointed premier if Yingluck’s government could be ditched. In fact, Pridiyathorn has a longish history of craving high position and was talked about as a possible premier immediately after the 2006 military coup. Instead that position went to someone even closer to the king.

Pridiyathorn became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, and this saw one of the most spectacular failures ever in Thailand’s modern political history. He lasted just a few months, with his most disastrous decision being his decision on capital controls. We quote Wikipedia:

Pridiyathorn instituted capital controls to attempt to reverse a strengthening of the baht, but reversed the measure after the Thai stock market crashed, destroying US$20 billion of market value in one day. Pridiyathorn later noted that “This was not a mistake…”.

He obviously believes in himself and his ability to provide “advice” despite this catastrophic crash-and-burn failure. The old elite has nothing if not unshakable confidence in their own greatness. And, he is taken seriously by those on the anti-democrat side.

And on pretending, the Constitutional Court has been at it again. Official red shirt Weng Tojirakarn has criticised the Courts “verdict that anti-government protesters are merely exercising constitutional rights of assembly.” He says: “The verdict of the court contradicts with reality…”. That’s true of most of the court’s politicized decisions. He also points out that court:

insisted that the PCAD is simply exercising the rights of peaceful assembly – which is protected under the Constitution – in response to the government′s pursuit of a legislation that would have absolved the corruption conviction of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Weng asked: “I′m curious whether the court is in league with Mr. Suthep…”. That would seem a rhetorical question.





Notes from the news

31 12 2013

PPT is catching up on some news and blog posts that may be of interest to readers:

1) As PPT posted earlier today, the anti-democracy crowd have been concocting quite a few myths meant to sustain anger and hatred. At Bangkok Pundit, another of these is explored: the idea that the government employs Cambodians against the protesters. Pundit says:

The clear implication from this inflammatory rhetoric is that it makes it easier for the protesters to feel justified in physically attacking the police because the police are not Thais; they are just Cambodian mercenaries (no doubt paid personally by the evil one, and of course, paid in Cambodian money because that is the only type of money that Cambodian mercenaries would accept). Expect to see a continuation of this rhetoric as the protesters up the ante…

It also panders to the perspective that Cambodians are Thaksin allies. Readers may recall a PAD rhetoric about Cambodian black magic. The link here is to Guardian article “Shuffling towards fascism,” which still makes good reading five years after it was written.

2) We note an AP report that police protested on Monday “to show their frustration after weeks of dealing with aggressive and often violent anti-government demonstrators, with officers saying that the order for them to show restraint has left them vulnerable and humiliated.”

At least eight people have been killed in sporadic violence since the demonstrations began about two months ago. At the government’s orders, police have responded with relative restraint despite severe provocation.

Police Col. Niwat Puenguthaisri, who led the gathering, said police were worried for their own safety because of lack of protective gear for many and poor riot control planning. Most police are allowed to carry only batons and riot shields, while selected officers are equipped with tear gas canisters and guns to fire rubber bullets.

Orders to show restraint has resulted in police several times being trapped by demonstrators and forced to bargain for their release.

3) In Siam Voices excellent series of posts on 2013, part 2 looks at lese majeste. It notes the bizarre and frightening expansion of the definition of lese majeste in 2013, to cover alleged offences against dead kings and the current dynasty, a crime of thinking about acts that might be lese majeste if committed, for insulting the monarchy without actually mentioning it or its incumbents, for editing something someone else wrote that was considered lese majeste, and so on. While there have been fewer cases in 2013 than, say, in 2010, these expansions of the law are threatening and dangerous.

4) In another lese majeste story, Prachatai reports that the “Human Rights Lawyer Association overseeing the case of Ampon Tangnoppakul, a 61-year-old man who passed away last year while imprisoned for lèse majesté, said it is raising funds to help Ampon’s wife with the legal fees for a lawsuit against the Department of Corrections in the Administrative Court.” The case aims to “improv[e] the standards of healthcare in the prison infirmary.”

5) Related, we note the quite boneheaded attempt by the Royal Thai Navy to sue and silence journalists at Phuketwan by using defamation charges related to a story published in July 2013 that “quoted a Reuters news agency investigation alleging that some members of the Thai military were involved in networks smuggling Muslim Rohingya boat people from Myanmar.” It’s really another military impunity story dressed up as something else.

6) The Red Shirts blog includes an updated and detailed report on the five dead supporters from the events near Ramkhamhaeng University on 30 November and 1 December 2013. It also lists the 30 injured red shirts.

 





Nation, monarchy and crisis

25 11 2013

PPT can’t go through all of the news that is coming out as some newspapers provide a blow-by-blow (and breathless) account of the demonstrations to bring down the elected government. However, we can highlight some points from the English-language reporting.

One of the reports we saw earlier today which seemed revealing of the aims of the protest leaders was at Bangkok Pundit, where it was reported that Suthep Thaugsuban had called for reform in Thailand that would make the country’s administration a genuine monarchy. That’s PPT’s translation, and modifies Pundit’s a little:

Last night, we saw the anti-Thaksin protesters unite on a single stage. Prachatai has the quotes of what Suthep said and called for two things. First, we must join together to completely eliminate the Thaksin system from Thai territory )”ข้อที่ 1 เราต้องร่วมใจกันขจัดระบอบทักษิณให้สิ้นซากพ้นแผ่นดินไทย”) and second, we will fuse our heads together to change and reform Thailand so that Thailand becomes an administration system by monarchy in a true form (ข้อที่ 2 เราจะหลอมหัวในด้วยกันเปลี่ยนแปลงปฏิรูปประเทศไทย ให้เป็นประเทศไทยที่ปกครองด้วยระบอบพระมหากษัตริย์ ที่สมบูรณ์แบบอย่างแท้จริง.)

Pundit has the ASTV clip showing Suthep saying this as he follows yellow-shirted leader Suriyasai Katasila, calling all of the leadership “ajarn.” In fact, they are respected teachers in the sense that the tactics and ideas are all those of the People’s Alliance for Democracy over the past (almost) decade. Styling himself and his supporters as fighting for country and people, Suthep clearly expresses a preference for a “real monarchy” and Suriyasai expresses support.

As Pundit notes, the Democrat Party has tried to play this down as a slip of the tongue, but this is disingenuous.

The monarchy has become involved, whether they like it or not. At Khaosod, the crown prince is reported by a senior policeman:

“His Royal Highness has summoned me to his palace earlier this evening”, Pol.Gen. Kamronwit Thoopkrachang said, “He is very concerned about his royal subjects. He doesn′t want to see Thai people fighting each other”…. Pol.Gen. Kamronwit also said the Crown Prince has explicitly urged all Thais to defuse the tension by dialogues and peaceful negotiations. “I think we all should obey His Royal Highness,” the police chief added.

In a constitutional monarchy, royals are meant to stay quiet, and this is an expression of concern that was probably best left unsaid, especially as it got caught up in criticism of “[s]ome of the protesters” who have decided “to block the roads around Nang Loeng Intersection” that “directly interferes with the Crown Prince′s scheduled travel route.” The policeman said: “They refuse to move and open the roads for the royal convoy…”.

Bangkok Pundit – doing some excellent work – reports another royal plea that suggests attempts by the protesters to have the palace involved in nefarious political positioning that PPT would link to Suthep’s slip of the tongue, where he said what had really been the tenor of discussions amongst the protest leadership. Pundit also points to the beginnings of calls for the king to intervene, suggestive of a “crisis intervention” like 1992.

Suthep has already promised a crisis by declaring that “the ultimate goal of the protest is to uproot the Thaksin regime and the protest will not end unless the goal is achieved.” He added:

“We won’t stop even if [premier] Yingluck Shinawatra resigns or the House is dissolved,” Mr Suthep told the crowd, which numbered in the hundreds of thousands….  “Our demonstration will continue until we can get rid of the Thaksin regime.” …  However, Mr Suthep maintained that the battle would not last long. “This battle will end in three days,” he said.

Three days seems like a prediction that would be difficult to make unless one had word of high-level intervention or the protest leadership planned violence. It may be the latter given that The Nation is reporting “chaos” after Suthep invited protesters to storm the Budget Bureau “peacefully.” Other protesters have been testing police lines.

Meanwhile, Suthep’s Harry Dunne, Abhisit Vejjajiva has political amnesia (or hopes that the rest of the world does) when he prattles on about “Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Pheu Thai Party [needing] to take responsibility for the ongoing protests.” He went on to declare that “the high number of people gathering at Rajdamnoen is a significant expression of Thai society who want to see a change.” Don’t recall Abhisit making such a point when he faced larger demonstrations in 2010. It gets more disingenuous when he says:  “It’s a pity that we do not see how the PM and the government will respond to the call. They just repeatedly say ‘please sit and talk’…”. He is simply lying for the media for Suthep has already ruled this out.





The mainstream media and bias

12 09 2013

Yesterday, the Democrat Party’s Chuan Leepai whined about “some sections of the media are under the former prime minister’s [Thaksin Shinawatra’s] control.” Obviously he wasn’t including either The Nation or the Bangkok Post in that section.

Two recent examples suggest that these two bastions of the English-language press remain under the sway of Democrat Party ideology.

The first story has PPT wondering why, when the Democrat Party has stated several times that it plans and condones chaos in parliament and has engaged in several bouts of loutish behavior involving fighting police, throwing chairs and more, that the best The Nation seems to be able to do is come up with is a story about parliamentarians viewing porn. How much effort goes into protecting the Democrat Party’s thuggery?

Panitan and army buddy working on a "story.".

Panitan with army dissembler

The second is a story that we wanted to comment on but cannot do any better than Bangkok Pundit’s excellent account of a Bangkok Post burnishing of third-rate “academic”-for-hire Panitan Wattanayagorn. A Democrat Party toady is cited by the paper on a story that is so patently absurd that it can’t be anything other than a Democrat Party beat-up.





Updated: Rice and rubber

8 09 2013

As mentioned in a recent post, PPT hasn’t got much insight into the rubbery rioters in the mid-south. We still don’t have much more, although we found a recent article in the Thai-language Khaosod instructive.Rice

In fact, the graphic produced in the article summarized the article itself. Essentially, the story is about net incomes per rai per year comparing rice farmers and rubber planters.

The result is that Thailand’s rice farmers clear about 4,315 baht/rai/year while the rubber planters make about 17,040 baht/rai/year.

This caused PPT to look at incomes in the south. Data from the UNDP for 2007 – yes, a bit old, but easily located – showed 9 of the 10 mid-south provinces having average incomes that were better than the national average.

We are sure that these data say something about politics, prices and protest.

Update: Readers will find a detailed assessment of rice versus rubber in a recent Bangkok Pundit post.