Unenforced amnesia

21 09 2014

Our header is probably as polite as PPT can be about a report in Khaosod that says “[l]eading members of the Democrat Party have denied the allegation that their party supported the anti-government protest campaign that was launched at the end of last year.”

Any one with even the slightest knowledge of the events associated with the anti-democrat movement will recognize that this is a lie.

In amongst all of the lies of recent years, this is probably the whopper to beat all whoppers.

abhisit and whistleApparently, the “leading” members of the so-called Democrat Party was brought on by “a complaint filed by Redshirt activist Sa-ngiam Samranrat to the Constitutional Court, asking the court to dissolve the Democrat Party on the grounds that it engaged in politics through non-parliamentary means.”

abhisit whistle suthepSa-ngiam complained about “the involvement of prominent Democrat party leaders in the six months of street protests staged against then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra starting last November.” That anti-democrat movement was led by former deputy premier and secretary-general of the Democrat Party, Suthep Thaugsuban. The entire leadership of Suthep’s movement were “former” members of the Democrat Party. Democrat Party leaders including Abhisit Vejjajiva repeatedly joined the protests and appeared with its leaders.

Wirat Kalyasiri, director of Democrat Party’s legal department, fibbed that:”The party did not organise the protests…”. He said “Suthep and other Democrat leaders had already resigned from the party when they joined and organised the protests.” That may be accurate. However, Democrat Party members were all over the rallies, stage and more. Only eight resigned from the party.

Just in case this defense isn’t convincing to anyone, Wirat “insisted that previous court rulings deemed the PCAD protests legal, peaceful assembly.” That kind of lie is about having one’s cake and eating it too. We weren’t supporting it, but if we were, the courts side with us.

Nipit Intarasombat, deputy chairman of Democrat Party, said “his party never agreed to endorse the PCAD protests.”

Funny, really, that Nipit says this now when he was one of the Democrat Party leaders who was directly involved in organizing the movement that became Suthep’s anti-democrats.

As we posted at the time, Kalaya Sophonpanich was one of the “first leading Democrat [Party] figures to appear on the anti-government People’s Army stage at Lumpini Park…”. Two days before that, Kalaya “joined Democrat MPs Kasit Piromya, Nipit Intarasombat and Chalermchai Srion to meet People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leaders to talk about forming an alliance.”

Under the military dictatorship lies are standard operating procedure, and so we doubt that anyone will raise an eyebrow. In any case, unless The Dictator declares otherwise, the Constitutional Court is unlikely to ever find against the Democrat Party.





PADocrat propaganda

27 08 2013

At The Nation there was a recent and interesting interview with Democrat Party member Kalaya Sophonpanich, a scion of the fabulously wealthy banking family. She has recently been pretending to be a political activist, being:

… among the first leading Democrat [Party] figures to appear on the anti-government People’s Army stage at Lumpini Park on August 18. Two days earlier, she joined Democrat MPs Kasit Piromya, Nipit Intarasombat and Chalermchai Srion to meet People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leaders to talk about forming an alliance. In January 2006, she joined a PAD march from Lumpini Park to Government House to pressure then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra into resigning.

Why Kalaya, Kasit, Nipit and Chalermchai? She says: “We have been friends for a long time and always talk together. If we have the same ideas and same purpose to overthrow ‘Thaksin’s regime’, we should fight together seriously.” PAD and the ‘crats as long term comrades is not news to anyone who watched Kasit and Kalaya chanting for PAD.

On PAD pushing the Democrat Party to quit parliament and join a mass protest does not mean “the end of our relationship. The Democrats [she means the Party] can join with anybody who loves Thailand.”

Bizarrely, Kalaya believes it is the government “becoming more aggressive,” not her own party’s thuggish behavior that is aggressive. Even more bizarrely, she confuses the Democrat Party for the current government when she blathers “when you fight the government and lose, they will put you in jail for sure.”

And finally, she reckons the Democrat Party is broke! With a bunch of multimillionaire backers, she seems lost in a fantasy of self-delusion.

The Nation confirms that the PAD remain onside with the Democrat Party, stating:

Although the leadership of the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy had decided to step down, they would resume their fight against the Thaksin regime when the time is right, he said. PAD supporters have approached the Democrat Party about working together to campaign against the government…

Meanwhile, at Arabian Business, it seems the Democrat Party propagandists have decided that self-delusion can be bolstered by simply making stuff up.

The Democrat Party’s propaganda arm, Blue Sky TV, has claimed that Thaksin was “threatened by Al Qaeda in a clip posted on YouTube.” While every responsible source has said the video was a fake, Blue Sky not only used it but has added a claim “that authorities in the Gulf state had asked him [Thaksin] to leave…” the UAE because of it.

The Democrat Party mouthpiece presented no evidence at all. We guess that ASTV staff are busy helping Blue Sky make stuff up.

 





Democrat Party abandons parliament for street politics

20 08 2013

It has been clear for some time that the Democrat Party has been increasingly frustrated by parliamentary politics. They are an electorally unsuccessful party and have decided that parliamentary politics can be abandoned as they seek a return to power via street politics.

Of course, this is learned political behavior, for it was the People’s Alliance for Democracy that was created to bring down the Thaksin Shinawatra government via street demonstrations and, eventually, military coup in 2006. That set of stage-managed events was fully supported by the Democrat Party as it created new political rules – via the junta’s 2007 constitution – that promised the party a chance at government.

Now the Democrat Party has essentially abandoned parliament for the streets again. This time the party is playing the leading role in managing and apparently funding street politics.

Our conclusions are drawn from a series of recent reports in the media.

First, at the Bangkok Post, t is reported that the Democrat Party has opposed meeting to set a parliamentary agenda for constitutional change. A Democrat Party leader said that “the opposition is against the constitutional amendment, claiming efforts are being made to manipulate the Upper House.”

The unDemocrats oppose making the Senate elected. Like pundits in the mainstream media, they prefer the junta spawn of appointed senators rather than elected members of the upper house. Why? Well, simply because the nonDemocrats don’t win elections.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva concocted a statement that “most opposition MPs agree that the election, rather than the appointment, of senators would serve democratic means.” However, they don’t want the Senate controlled by a pro-Thaksin Shinawatra party and prefer a “neutral” Senate.

There’s more on unDemocrat opposition at The Nation.

Second, at Khaosod, these same “neutral”-loving lot are visiting the “People′s Army Overthrowing Thaksin Regime” at Lumpini Park, praising “the protesters for ‘their contributions to the country’.” Of course they support them for the Democrat Party is more or less sponsoring the protest.

Yellow-shirted Democrat Party members like Kalaya Sophonpanich, Korn Chatikavanij and Kasit Piromya, “brought the protesters some instant food and camping items.” Kalaya promised sponsorship for three days.

She praised the motley crew for “doing their best for the country, religion and the monarchy.”

Korn said “he is willing to stand by the People’s Army.” We recall that he supported the PAD when they engaged in illegal occupations of airports.

As reported at The Nation, these senior nonDemocrats were “given the green light by the party leader to join the street rallies…”. Abhisit argued that “… it’s good if we can support them…”.

He also supported an alliance with PAD and said the two groups “would … discuss the amnesty bill and moves to amend the Constitution…”.

If a party can’t win elections, it should look to itself for reform. The nonDemocrats ignore this and seek extra-parliamentary means to grab power, whether coup or PAD protest.

 





Updated: Democrat Party threats

17 08 2013

PPT was struck by a story at The Nation where the Democrat Party is said to have been the organizer of the recent rally that was originally said to have been arranged by the so-called People’s Army.

The story says that Democrat Party leaders led the rally “in a show of force to oppose the amnesty bill now before Parliament.” If it was a “show of force,” it failed as there weren’t many there. The story goes on to say that:

… the opposition [party] has demonstrated its potential to mobilise the masses and lead anti-government rallies. It also wants to prove that many people are ready to come out against the amnesty bill if it appears the government has a hidden agenda to help fugitive ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The story then claims that the [so-called] Democrats:

knew that with only 163 votes, they could not stop the government camp from passing the [amnesty] bill, and that its first street rally against the legislation was just an “appetiser”.

Democrat Party boss Suthep Thaugsuban is said to have “warned that … the party was preparing a knockout punch should the bill pass in the third reading [of the bill].”

The reporter reckons that this refers to “mega street protests.” It is added in the “best” tradition of The Nation as a fearless reporter and supporter of yellow politics:

If the government does not keep its word, and instead resorts to underhanded tactics to help Thaksin, the Democrats may not have to resort to mass mobilisation. Other anti-government protesters such as the People’s Alliance for Democracy, the multi-coloured shirts and the white-maskers would all take to the street to oppose the legislation.

For PPT it is clear that the groups mentioned here are all the same, working together, as they did in earlier years, even if they are all much weakened. But a difference now is that the Democrat Party is ditching its parliamentary role to help bring the old anti-Thaksin alliance back together, threatening violence.

Add to this the People’s Army attempt to mobilize vocational students a la 1976 strikes PPT as being a significant threat of violence.

Interestingly, many of those involved were also privy to the coup planning in 2006. So little seems to have changed for this lot.

Update: As we prepared this post, a new report confirming much of what we said above has become available at The Nation.

The relationship between the Democrat Party and PAD has long been a strong one. Again making that link explicit and formalized, it is reported that the two groups “have agreed to join political forces to fight ‘Thaksin’s regime, Democrat [Party] MP Nipit Intarasombat said yesterday.” Of course, this is no more than a restatement of their long relationship.

Nipit has met with PAD leader Panthep Puapongpan “to discuss political strategy.” Nipit is reported as stating that the two right-wing and royalist groups “had a common ground and it was now time for the two sides to join forces to fight the regime.” Other members of the ill-monikered Democrat Party included none other than PAD speaker and former foreign minister Kasit Piromya, who stated he enjoyed the PAD occupation of airports in 2008, Party secretary-general Chalermchai Sri-on, and scion of the rich, Kalaya Sophonpanich.

The two groups plan to bring “unity and political clout” to the anti-Thaksin movement. Nipit even stated that Democrat Party MPs may resign their parliamentary seats to become street activists.

The rejection of parliament is a core PAD theme, and the Democrat Party seems to have decided that they will do the same. It seems that virtually none in the royalist elite can accept the will of the electorate.





Updated: Wikileaks and a TRT accusation of lese majeste

3 03 2013

While it has been the Democrat Party that has most used the heinous lese majeste charge for political purposes in recent years, it should not be forgotten that in the struggle between Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party and the opposition, lese majeste was occasionally used. PPT was reminded of this when looking at some more Wikileaks cables and we came across one from U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce commenting on claims of lese majeste lodged against the Democrat Party’s Kalaya Sophonpanich.

The ambassador’s comments on this case are interesting and at times revealing. He begins with the statement that:Wikileaks

respected opposition Member of Parliament (MP), Khunying Kallaya Sophonpanich, has been summoned for questioning by Thai police on charges of lese majeste. Four others were questioned, including Democrat Party parliamentary candidate Thanom Onkhetpol, who lost in the February 6 general election, and three party workers. The charges are based on a complaint filed by the government Thai Rak Thai (TRT) Party candidate who opposed Thanom and who reported to police in mid-January that Democrat Party (DP) campaign stickers reportedly used by Thanom illegally quoted Thailand’s revered King and Queen.

Detailing the alleged offenses, Boyce states they are:

based on campaign stickers (reportedly similar in size to a US style bumper sticker) printed and paid for by the local office of the DP in Bangkok’s Klong Toey constituency. Three quotes are used in the stickers, according to newspaper accounts. The first is an excerpt from a speech given by Queen Sirikit, “Poverty is no disgrace, while evil and fraud are disgusting and disgraceful.” The other two excerpts are from speeches given by King Bhumibol. “The richer people are, the more they cheat,” and “Anyone who cheats (or is corrupt), even just a little bit, may that person be cursed.” The complaint by MP Sita apparently alleges that the DP did not receive permission to print the quotes and that the DP is using the revered words of the monarchy for political gain. Khunying Kalaya is accused of ordering the printing and distribution of the stickers in the role of senior politician assisting the campaign of Thanom.

It is quite revealing that Boyce then states: “It’s unclear to most legal experts how this can be construed as defaming the monarch as the quotes are taken from public speeches and there is no prohibition on quoting the King or Queen in public.” Clearly, such a statement could not be made today following the remarkable political use of lese majeste and the manner in which the courts have interpreted cases with statements about the monarchy being above politics.

No charges had been laid when this cable was authored, and PPT is unaware of any case going forward, although readers may know more than us.

Boyce then notes that Kalaya “had the title of ‘Khunying’ bestowed on her over 10 years ago in part in recognition of her philanthropic works through Royally-sponsored projects for children’s’ books and encyclopedias…” and comments:

Use of this arcane but very important tenet of Thai criminal law by a government parliamentary candidate for political retribution is disturbing. This tactic, which likely had to be approved at the highest levels of TRT leadership to proceed this far, seems unnecessary and vindictive…. We are watching closely as someone clearly dedicated to Thailand’s revered monarch and to public service is drawn into a legal spectacle. Privately, many Thais have expressed to us their hope that Khunying Kalaya’s palace connections will find a way to have the charges dropped.

As far as we are aware, the case was dropped. But all of the (false) claims that the palace is never involved in these charges are but a puff of smoke when “palace connections” are invoked, and it is interesting too that Boyce takes this charge seriously and is “watching closely.” It is also telling that he uses the term “arcane” to describe a law that has come to be the most widely known in Thailand.

Update: A reader points out that the statement: “The richer people are, the more they cheat,” attributed to the king, should be linked to this post.





Red shirts, Bangkok Bank and lies

18 02 2010

There are several reports in various media of the red shirts rallying at the Bangkok Bank headquarters in Silom Road. MCOT.net (17 February 2010) reports that United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leader Nattawut Saikua announced the first red shirt action in the business district, usually considered a bastion of yellow-shirt support.

The move comes a day after Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban briefed a large delegation of representatives of the local business community (Bangkok Post, 18 February 2010)

Apparently Suthep and others revealed the government’s intelligence gathering and planning for the red shirt violence that the government has been predicting for several months.

According to MCOT.net, the red shirts will reportedly “disclose information claiming that Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda unfairly favoured a group of businesspersons investing in a golf resort in the eastern province of Chanthaburi.” Prem has a long association with the Bangkok Bank and it is considered that the Bank was one of the businesses that funded the long-running demonstrations by the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

The Bangkok Bank’s controlling family, the immensely wealthy Sino-Thai Sophonpanich clan, has strong links with the Democrat Party. Kalaya Sophonpanich is Science and Technology minister in Abhisit Vejjajiva’s cabinet. The total wealth of the Sophonpanich is not exactly known, although Money & Banking magazine (December 2009, p. 215) listed its senior member, Chatri, as being Thailand’s 23rd wealthiest measured just in terms of shares held on the Stock Exchange of Thailand, holding shares worth almost 2.5 billion baht.

Prem is reported as having a small group of close business associates known as the Group of 11 that includes Kalyani Panchet of MMC Sittipol who gave sums of money to Prem for allegedly charitable purposes and which the red shirts have raised as an issue against the privy councilor. The group also includes the Dusit group’s Chanat Piyaoui and Chatri Sophonpanich of the Bangkok Bank.

The rally at the Bangkok Bank coincides with government accusations that the red shirts have been lying about alleged plans to crackdown on the movement at the end of the month. The red shirts have quoted from a cabinet document that apparently sets out scenarios for a violent crackdown on red shirt protestors. The red shirts claim to have obtained the document from a senior military commander.

PPT has yet to see a copy of this allegedly 37 page document, except in news reports, so if any reader has a copy or a link for a copy, email us.

Initially Deputy Prime Minister Suthep claimed this was all a big lie. He emphatically stated on television that “There is no plan.” However, there have now been considerable backtracking, arguing that the red shirts have a real document but that it is not a secret document but one that is public and from the National Security Council. As we said above, if it is a public document, we at PPT can’t find it. In any case, ministers now claim that despite the NSC planning for a crackdown, they aren’t going to do it. So we wonder who is lying on this case.

In Parliament, there have been more accusations. The Nation (18 February 2010) reports that acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn faced a grilling over his accusations regarding overseas funds flowing to the red shirts. The Nation states that Panitan “vehemently denied having anything to do with the allegations, while a number of Pheu Thai MPs lashed out saying it was a frame-up…”. It might be that Panitan is misreported, although PPT thinks Panitan is fudging, which is our polite term for lying.

Here’s the fudging, as reported: “The news broke because some reporters came into my office asking whether I was aware of any suspicious funds…”. So it was the reporters’ fault? He added that “he had recalled a report from a security agency within the PM’s Office reporting an unusual flow of funds into Thailand from sources overseas.” So he told them.

Panitan also said that “security agencies were checking the report under prescribed procedures and the government was not trying to smear the red shirts.” Another lie. PPT has posted on Panitan’s own comments previously, here and here. Panitan would not reveal “which agency had detected these questionable funds.” Earlier he had claimed that some senators told him….

According to MCOT.net another accusation of lying has come from Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitthi. He was responding to red shirt claims Suwit had “signed an order mobilising and arming thousands of forest rangers nationwide to the capital in an attempt to prevent the anti-government Red Shirts from gathering in Bangkok.” The red shirts claim to have the signed order. Suwit stated: “… I’ve never signed such an order…”.

Undocumented claims of Thai Rak Thai ministers mobilizing forest rangers were made by an anti-government NGO just prior to the 2006 coup, and a couple of days after the coup the military claimed this as one of the reasons for the coup as the nice military lads wanted to prevent violence. No evidence has ever been produced, but the story continues to make the rounds in PAD circles.

So this could be equally unfounded, and the red shirts need to produce evidence and make it available to reporters. At the same time, MCOT.net reports: “Combined units of police and military as well as civil defence volunteers are now closely manning key areas and buildings across the capital in the run-up to the Supreme Court’s February 26 ruling whether or not to seize the assets worth Bt76 billion of convicted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. About 200 checkpoints have been set up in Bangkok and adjacent areas.” Television news regularly reports on “volunteers” joining the military and police in patrolling so-called danger areas.

The Bangkok Post (18 February 2010) indicates how much the military leadership has taken over the running of security matters in the lead-up to the assets case decision. The military does not want to take any chances and is increasingly taking the driving seat on security, making it look like the Abhisit government is their puppet.

Interesting times indeed, with accusations, counter-accusations, lies and, undoubtedly, false leads being put about by many agencies and groups.





Where to now?

28 01 2010

The Abhisit Vejjajiva government faces its toughest test since the Songkhran Uprising, with the military is considerable disarray and a public dispute between the Democrat Party and its coalition partners over constitutional change.

The New York Times (via Reuters, 27 January 2010) reports that stock prices continue to fall in Bangkok on political jitters.

The Democrat Party’s strong rejection of any engagement in constitutional amendment (despite the prime minister having promoted it for months) has caused speculation about a rift in the Democrat-led six-party coalition. While all party leaders have said the parties were united, clearly there is considerable anger with the Democrats, who are accused of reneging on written and spoken agreements made when the coalition was formed.

PPT thinks that the coalition will stay together as long as there is strong backing for the coalition from the palace and military. On the latter, see more discussion below.

Abhisit has been erratic on constitutional change. After months of promoting some form of amendment, he is now firmly opposed and angry that the Democrats are being pressured on this, and banning a free vote on the matter (Bangkok Post, 27 January 2010 ).

Democrat Party members appear to have been pressured. But not by the coalition as much as by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). On 19 January, PAD leaders stated that they might support some constitutional changes, but they quickly backed away from this. When it looked like the Democrats might just support constitutional amendment, PAD leaders Chamlong Srimuang and Somkiat Pongpaibul jointly addressed a press conference (reported in the Bangkok Post, 23 January 2010) and called on the Democrats to oppose change.

They called for a minority government if the coalition fell apart. Chamlong stated that the prime minister “doesn’t have to dissolve the House. We the people will step in to support the government.” This is an interesting idea. A minority government would, however need more than a PAD rally to maintain power. It would need the army (see below) and palace and judicial connivance. It does fit with Abhisit’s later and quite remarkable claim: “Do not worry about a house dissolution because nobody can threaten me as long as I am the prime minister” (Bangkok Post, 27 January 2010). Maybe Prem has also been instructing him?

Now it is also remarkable that a Democrat Party member of parliament – Somkiat – can speak for PAD. This anomaly has been there for some time, but it is now evident that much of the basic decision-making within the Democrat Party is determined by the yellow-shirted brigade that most publicly includes Somkiat, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and Kalaya Sophonpanich. These PAD supporters have been unhappy with Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Taugsuban’s more pragmatic and “unprincipled” approach to coalition partners.

While most analysts do not think the coalition can break apart at present, mainly because of the threat of an expensive election and a possible loss to the pro-Thaksin Puea Thai Party, the idea of a minority government remains on the table. A minority government is a high-risk strategy because of the way the Democrat Party coalition was put together and how Abhisit became premier. A vote in parliament could easily see Puea Thai become the government. That is a nightmare scenario for the establishment.

It is likely that the anti-Thaksin commentators in the mainstream media will link the minor party support for constitutional amendment to lingering support for Thaksin, and this might be a catalyst for further dissension as the Democrats face a no-confidence motion in parliament. As Suthep explained on PBS last night, this could lead to serious loss of face in parliament.

Equally worrying for the Democrats and their backers is the February D-Day of the Thaksin assets case decision. A divided coalition and a divided military (see below) will scare many in the establishment. A dissolution and an election is not what the establishment wants – Prem has said he does not want to see the House dissolved. As one academic commentator in the NYT articles says, “There is a lot of uncertainty about what will happen if the government calls fresh polls and Thaksin’s supporters win again. What would happen then?” Expect more noises from the palace.

Much of the Democrat Party leadership strategy making, and that of its powerful backers, depends on the military as the armed protector of the establishment’s government. Look at how much budget support the military has been getting in recent days as the government expands its deficit even further for 2011. However, the military is looking somewhat shaky.

The news broadcasts on television on 27 January included some extraordinary footage of soldiers, parading in front of banners, offering support to army chief General Anupong Paojinda. Expressions of support, songs sung, parades held and mini-press conferences with generals all proclaiming their undying love for their boss. Further demonstrations are planned. Military street politics perhaps?

PPT can’t recall such a display since the time of the Chatichai Choonhavan government when the army wanted to get back its control of foreign policy from the Ban Pitsanulok policy advisers. That’s 20 years ago.

Wassana Nanuam (Bangkok Post, 28 January 2010) comments on this. She says this can be interpreted as “a warning to the junior coalition parties, which are locked in conflict with the Democrat Party over amendments to the constitution.” It was also a show of support for Anupong as he faces down Major-General Khattiya Sawasdipol (Seh Daeng), who is popping up in various places and continuing to embarrass the top brass by demonstrating that the military is indeed split.

In some incredible television, Khattiya and Anupong both attended events for the 50th anniversary of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School. As Anupong sat grim-faced, Seh Daeng received red roses from military supporters.

Wassana asserts that the military demonstrations are supported by deputy army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha and 1st Army chief Kanit Sapitak. “Gen Prayuth is a strong contender to be promoted to the top army post. Gen Anupong has also reshuffled many key commanders by replacing those suspected of supporting Thaksin with those in whom he has put his trust since he became army commander.”

Reuters (27 January 2010) states that the “festering ideological differences [in the military] show signs of broadening in one of the most charged climates in decades.” It reports that many analysts now acknowledge that “[l]arge numbers of soldiers of lower ranks and some senior officers … are sympathisers of Thailand’s rural, grassroots anti-government, red-shirted protest movement.” The top brass is mainly on the other side, “allied with royalists, business elites and the urban middle classes, who wear yellow at protests and largely support the present government.”

The military includes such a bunch of dunces that a coup cannot be ruled out if the leadership sees it as a way to “clean up a mess.” However, some also realize that the last coup failed to sort out the problems created by the palace-military coup in 2006. Wonder what the Privy Council will have discussed in their weekly meeting?





Red shirt action

20 01 2010

Update: Almost as soon as PPT posted about it, the red shirts have called off their proposed airport rally (nationmultimedia.com/2010/01/20/politics/politics_30120737.php). Apparently, they were just “thinking about it.” Perhaps, but the reaction they got was remarkable. They continue with small rallies at multiple sites.

***

The red shirts are using small rallies to get plenty of attention.

The Bangkok Post (20 January 2010) and most other media outlets have reported a red shirt plan to rally on the road leading to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport next week.

Business leaders are reportedly “alarmed” and “frantic” and stocks fell 1.39% yesterday, which analysts linked to the red shirt threat, even though the fall was in line with mixed results elsewhere in Asia (Bangkok Post, 20 January 2010 ).

Red shirt/United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) spokesman stated that the rally “would not disrupt airport operations or interfere with passengers.”

Business interests recall, though, that the closure of Suvarnabhumi in November and December 2008, by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), caused immense damage. The PAD rally was supported by senior members of the Democrat Party, including the current finance minister and minister for foreign affairs. More than a year later, no legal action against the PAD has been completed by their allies in the current government.

Satit Rungkasiri, the director-general of the Finance Ministry’s Fiscal Policy Office, whose own minister supported the PAD actions, warned that “an airport closure would be akin to ‘national suicide’.” He added that: “If the airport is closed due to political protests, it would be a problem for the economy on par with the Map Ta Phut dispute. No one, no country, could accept a second closure for its main airport…”.

So a first closure is acceptable, but not a second closure?

The Thai Hotels’ Association said “Thailand’s global image would be ‘destroyed’ if the airport was closed.” Its president urged the government to do “everything, even if it means drastic measures, to protect the airport…”. Meanwhile, logistics operators “expressed hope that the government and security forces can prevent any serious fallout if a rally occurred.”

Red shirt leader Natthawut Saikua stated that “the rally was intended to press for progress in the prosecution of the UDD’s political rivals, the People’s Alliance for Democracy, for its extended blockade of the airport in late 2008.” Natthawut said the “purpose was to determine if certain people were receiving preferential treatment with regard to the law…”.

He said the “protest would be peaceful. The group would not lay siege to the terminal and they would not block off the airport’s entrances.” He added that they would not obstruct traffic and it would not be a protracted affair.

Meanwhile, red shirt pressure continued against Privy Councilor Surayud Chulanont over Khao Yai Thiang. Red shirt visits to the “homes of other privy councilors” were planned. Science and Technology Minister and senior Democrat Party member Kalaya Sophonpanich “slammed the UDD for linking her family [the titans running the Bangkok Bank and related enterprises, with close links to General Prem Tinsulanond] to alleged land ownership irregularities at the Khao Soi Dao forest reserve in Chanthaburi. She said it was irresponsible to make indiscriminate accusations and lambasted the movement for claiming Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda had something to do with the questionable land occupation.”

The political temperature continues to rise.

As a footnote, taxi and limousine drivers are looking to close Phuket airport in a protest over corruption (see here).





Royalist dog lovers

7 07 2009

Prachatai (7 July 2009: “Khun Thong Daeng as prototype of Thai dogs”) has a story that would be hilarious if it wasn’t a sad but reflection of the kind of complete royalist nonsense that grips the defenders of the monarchy far too often in Thailand.

The king’s favourite bitch has been re-enlisted in the fight to rebuild the monarchy’s dwindling prestige. A few years ago there was a flurry of interest in the dog Thong Daeng when it became clear that the dog was the king’s favourite and he published a book lauding the mutt. Lots of people like dogs, but this became, for a moment, a national obsession, with staunch loyalists appearing in Thong Daeng shirts.

Now the Ministry of Science and Technology, which would usually be considered an abode for sensible people, has decided to “set a standard for authentic Thai dogs, using Khun Thong Daeng as a reference, to protect them and prevent foreigners from claiming patents.”

One might think that such a silly idea might be the result of ultra-royalists thinking that they could curry a bit of palace favour. Apparently not, for this comes direct from the palace.

Science and Technology Minister Kalaya Sophonpanich said that the Ministry was “trying to follow His Majesty the King’s advice given when Ministry officials were granted an audience on June 24 at the Klai Kangwon Palace in Prachuab Khiri Khan to report on the patenting of the aroma-control gene in rice.”

PPT won’t comment on this idea regarding patenting rice aroma, as it has been criticized elsewhere. However, Kalaya goes on to explain that “HM spoke about the standardization of Thai dogs, and, citing his pet dog Khun Thong Daeng as a reference, said that the characteristics of Thai dogs included medium size, coiled tails, prick ears, and loyalty to their owners…”. These are old notions that the king first set out in his somewhat childish Thong Daeng book a few years ago.

Kalaya trumpets: ‘Initially, the Ministry will follow HM’s advice using Khun Thong Daeng as a prototype of authentic Thai dogs for the purpose of conserving the authentic Thai breed and preventing them from disappearing from the country. The number of authentic Thai dogs has decreased because people prefer foreign breeds…’.

Kalaya is reported to have “assigned the task to the National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (NECTEC) which … will collect data on all authentic Thai dogs, and work with academic experts to find the specifications of authentic Thai dogs, with Khun Thong Daeng as the reference.

Adding nationalist fervor to silliness the apparently serious minister says, ”Afterwards, the ministry will report to HM on implementation, and will register the standard size of Thai dogs under the Geographical Identification Law to protect the Thai breed. This is similar to patenting a product, but the patenting of life forms, including animals is not allowed. But the law can protect Thai dogs to prevent other countries from claiming Thai dogs as theirs, as has happened with Thai rice, plants and products which were patented by foreigners. Although they are Thai, Thai people are robbed of the ownership. It’s a pain for the nation…’.

Kalaya is also reported to have advised the king that his fears that “Thai buffaloes were on the brink of extinction” was already being handled by the Ministry following the orders of Princess Sirinthorn. The results of this study are expected in the next two months.

Apparently Sirinthorn is worried about the “farmers’ way of life, and doesn’t want farmers to use chemicals or machines too much, or they will get poorer and poorer. [She prefers] … them to live as farmers, having a sufficiency way of life.”

From the article it seems that NECTEC is engaged in working on and with 3-D Body Scanners for Thai people, buffaloes and now dogs. The frontiers of poverty and ignorance are clearly being pushed back by such work. We know, some boffin will tell us how important some of this is, but really, is this what science is meant to be about? Establishing arbitrary standards on the orders of a few influential people who happen to have some not so bright ideas? We think not. However, this silliness may well be emblematic of a deep malaise in Thai society.