Updated: Throwbacks

23 09 2013

(PPT apologizes in advance for being rather silly when assessing PART. Read on…)

PPT was wide-eyed when reading a report at the Bangkok Post about a brand new anti-Thaksin Shinawatra group with a brand new tactic for bringing the Puea Thai-led government down: going to the courts!

We weren’t really stunned, we’re fibbing. We were really just amazed at how boringly predictable this lot are. That said, being predictable or boring doesn’t mean that their tactics won’t be successful.

The People Assembly Reforming Thailand – yes, that’s PART – is reportedly about to “launch a legal challenge to the government’s 2-trillion-baht borrowing bill for infrastructure development projects,” which will see it asking the Constitutional Court to rule, yet again, against the government based on its royalist interpretation of the military junta-tutored 2007 constitution.

PART is composed of the usual old farts – sorry, couldn’t resist – of the yellow-shirted, royalist groups that get established by the dozen each time a new anti-government gimmick is required, although simply shuffling a known deck is hardly useful gimmickry.old-farts-and-jackasses

And, oh yes, the Democrat Party “also intends to launch legal action.” How predictable.

PART even got together at its usual spot, the decidedly yellow  National Institute of Development Administration, where it was also led by the usual suspects. One of them was

One of Part’s leaders was People’s Alliance for Democracy leader and former Democrat Party MP Somkiat Pongpaibul. Another was NIDA’s own former PAD stage performer Pichai Rattanadilok Na Phuket.

He let it be known that PART “also discussed other issues including the rising cost of living, the amnesty bill, and the charter amendment bill.” What a surprise!

Preeda Tiasuwan, chairman of Pranda Jewellery and head of the Businessmen for Democracy and Environment Club (any link there?), managed to come up with the usual royalist complaint that politicians can’t sold the “country’s problems,” although apart from the yellow lot’s opposition to elected representation, the reason for this view isn’t explained.

Meanwhile, a Senate committee dominated by the unelected variety managed to criticize Yingluck Shinawatra’s policies as “populist.” The Democrat Party agrees and is going to launch an alternative economic policy with its old Thai Khem Khaeng projects “as a model showing how money under budget laws could be better spent.

The Thai Khemkaeng projects were the subject of criticism and didn’t amount to much.

This is all ever so boringly old; indeed, a bunch of throwbacks coming up with throwback ideas. Yet, the old farts of PART have some supporters in the judiciary, so maybe the throwbacks are onto something (again).

Update: Above, we noted that Democrat Party’s return to Thai Khemkaeng. At the Bangkok Post, it is noted that a part of the Party’s “alternative” scheme would “serve public needs better as it would cover all regions of the country equally and fairly…”. The report specified the northeast which:

often suffers droughts and studies have shown hundreds of billions of baht would be required to solve this problem, Mr Abhisit said. The government should spend some of the money on ending water shortages in the Northeast, he said.

“The government has often talked about poverty in Isan, but it chooses not to spend in this region,” he said.

 We were reminded that “solving” this problem would almost invariably be an ecological disaster if the “studies” mentioned are those that began as far as the Green Isan project initiated by Chavalit Yongchaiyudh in the mid-1980s. The Democrat Party’s penchant for old ideas is remarkable.

Yellow fear? Or yellow fear campaign?

25 01 2013

In a letter to the Bangkok Post a few days ago, Manit Sriwanichpoom, the producer of “Shakespeare Must Die,” gets hot under the collar about a letter from one Somsak Pola, published a week ago, claiming it “is factually wrong as well as offensive and damaging to us.” Somsak was commenting on a letter by Democrat Party MPs that PPT also commented on.

Mostly, we don’t think the claims are worth repeating as we are unable to verify them (see our earlier post where we make our position clear on this film). In any case, debates about censorship of this film or that program are easily resolved if there is no censorship. However, there is one aspect that caught our attention as it is right from the Democrat Party/People’s Alliance for Democracy playbook.

… We’re living in a land gripped by fear. Never mind small people like us, even Constitution Court judges and their families are threatened and an opposition lawyer is attacked by thugs and hospitalised. Propelled by fear, to preserve businesses, careers and life itself, self-censorship is rife…. There is no meaningful freedom of expression, not for the media and not for artists, under this government.

It is remarkable that Manit declares, like Korn Chatikavanij, a “police state” or a “land gripped by fear” but fails to mention the mas arrests and killing of protesters in 2010 under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, which, perhaps not coincidentally funded the banned film, being the “last film to receive financial support from the Ministry of Culture’s film fund…” That fund was controversial, with the government doling out money to royalist and royal film makers. Shakespeare Must Die’s credits also indicated that the making of the film was  supported by the Thai khemkaeng project, also established by the Abhisit government and highly controversial.

That people continue to be harassed by the use of the lese majeste law is a travesty, and this has a deep impact on self-censorship, but notions that Thailand is a land “gripped by fear” seems to us to be more relevant in describing Manit’s funders rather than the present rather timid government. Such claims amount to yellow-shirted propaganda exercises.

Democrat Party MP: Parliamentary control worse than a coup

3 07 2012

PPT was going to post on a revealing statement by Democrat Party MP Witthaya Kaewparadai. However, Bangkok Pundit has an excellent post making most of our commentary superfluous.

Witthaya has “accused the ruling Pheu Thai Party of attempting to overthrow the court system. ” To PPT, the reverse seems more the case: the judiciary is again trying to overthrow an elected government.

Witthaya added:

As for the other courts that cannot be dissolved, they are aiming to grant parliament the power to appoint the chief of the Courts of Justice. This would be even worse than a military coup.

Of course, it is well known that Democrat Party stalwarts hate elections, not least because they can’t win them, and they treat parliament with contempt. The contempt has been demonstrated in several ways, most recently in attacks on the Speaker (see here and here). It is also well-known that the royalist Democrat Party has been in cahoots with the military in its 2006 coup and then when Abhisit Vejjajiva rode on the shoulders of military and judiciary to become prime minister in late 2008. Finally, we know that the judiciary remains critical to the royalists, including the Democrat Party, in seeking to overturn election results. That has been seen several times.

So why wouldn’t Witthaya think that an elected parliament is worse than rolling out the tanks! Not a democrat in sight at the Democrat Party.

We should add that Witthaya is no ordinary MP. He was Democrat Party Public Health Minister in 2009 when a corruption scandal erupted there that saw each and every one of the eight advisers resign. The scandal involved an 86 billion baht project, and it took Witthaya several weeks to respond.

When he did, the investigating committee quickly found corruption and claimed that politicians and senior officials had been involved in unusual procurement of medical equipment under the Thai Khemkhaeng stimulus package. This included budget allocations for hospital construction skewed in favor of some politicians’ constituencies and unnecessary procurement plans.

There was also evidence of direct intervention by Deputy Minister Manit Nop-amornbodiand who was also involved in a scheme to purchase overpriced ambulances. The latter case also involved the minister’s secretary. Witthaya resigned.

The Abhisit Vejjajiva government was meant to send the case to the National Anti-Corruption Commission. That’s the last PPT heard of it. We wonder where that case went. Readers can let us know by email.

Updated: The politics of censorship

4 04 2012

As has been widely reported in the media (see here and here), Thailand’s Film Censorship Board has banned another film under rules established by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, with some intent to protect the monarchy.

Some reports are that the first banned under its revised law was Tanwarin Sukhkapisit’s Insects in the Backyard. That transvestite-gay-themed film was banned for allegedly “being immoral and pornographic.” For some broader information on film censorship see here.

The most recent banning is of Shakespeare Must Die, claimed to be “the first Thai Shakespearean film, a horror movie adaptation of William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’,” directed by Ing K.

The idea that any film should be banned in Thailand is a reflection of the inability of state’s to think and the fear of things that are somehow conceived as “abnormal” or “unThai” or “divisive.”

A press release by producer Manit Sriwanichpoom dated 3 April 2012, states that the Film Censorship Board, under the Department of Cultural Promotion, Ministry of Culture, stated:

the Board deems that the film Shakespeare Must Die has content that causes divisiveness among the people of the nation, according to Ministerial Regulations stipulating types of film, BE 2552 [AD 2009], Article 7 (3).

Therefore our verdict is to withhold permission; the film is grouped under films that are not allowed to be distributed in the Kingdom, according to Article 26(7) of the Royal Edict on Film and Video, BE 2551 [2008].

The letter from the Board is reproduced here. No real reasons are provided apart form the likelihood that the film will be “divisive.”

There’s no doubt that the film is anti-Thaksin Shinawatra and anti-red shirt, but that isn’t a reason for doing anything about the film other than watching it. And we guess that some of the censors see it as possibly see it as a threat to the monarchy. After all, as Wikipedia describes it,

The Tragedy of Macbeth (commonly called Macbeth) is … about a man who commits regicide so as to become king and then commits further murders to maintain his power. The play clearly demonstrates the corrupting effect of ambition, but also deals with the relationship between cruelty and masculinity, tyranny and kingship, treachery, violence, guilt, prophecy, and disruption of the natural order.

So the censors panic and act like a bunch of ninnies and nannies and ban it.

A little on the film and its background may also be of interest for readers. As Manit points out, this was the “last film to receive financial support from the Ministry of Culture’s film fund…” That fund was controversial, with the government doling out money to royalist and royal film makers. Shakespeare Must Die’s credits in the trailer (linked above), also indicate that the making of the film was  supported by the Thai khemkaeng project, also established by the Abhisit government and highly controversial.

Manit adds that:

under the auspices of the Creative Thailand Project by the previous (Abhisit Vejajiva) government in 2010, but was only recently completed and submitted to the Censorship Board this year, under a new (Yingluck Shinawatra) government.

Ing and Manit are dedicated anti-Thaksinites, who last produced the film Citizen Juling, an almost 4-hour film that tended to sheet home the southern troubles to Thaksin, and was a surprisingly nationalist account. The military also gets some criticism, and royalism is also a big part of the Juling story.

While it did hit many of the important issues of the region, Citizen Juling was so long because  it degenerated into a self-indulgent rant, even if the IHT says it was an “intelligent and timely documentary…”. It was produced in association with senator-cum-Democrat Party politician Kraisak Choonhavan, and was shown in only one cinema in Thailand.

The new film is, if the information at its website and in the trailer is any indication, also an attack on Thaksin. As Manit states:

As every English-speaking middle school children know, ‘Macbeth’ is the supreme study of megalomania, the tale of a warlord with limitless ambition who, prompted by the prophecies of witches and egged on by his fiendish wife, kills his king to crown himself. A reign of terror ensues, as the paranoid tyrant must keep on killing to preserve his power.

It seems strange that the cultural ministry would ban Shakespeare, in the form of a film that the ministry itself had funded. It’s as if we’re actually living under a real live Macbeth.

Ing K. adds to this, stating that:

I’m writing this on the eve of sending Shakespeare Must Die to the censors, in an atmosphere of escalating and irreconcilable socio-political conflict under the Yingluck Shinawatra government….

Thailand is in the worst mood in my living memory; the very dust in the air is filled with rage, hate, grief and helplessness.

The picture is clear, although she makes it even clearer:

Are you not afraid that this film will contribute to the existing divisiveness? Are you biased against the red shirts? Aren’t you scared that the red shirts will kill you? Is the film an attack on the Shinawatra family? Is this film an attack on the royal family? (Given the current plague of lese majeste cases, let me confirm right here that every syllable in that scene is straight from Shakespeare; it’s a discussion of the Divine Right of Kings, ie they’re only divine if they behave, and it’s essentially about rulers and leaders of men, not only kings.) Is this film dredging up old and new wounds unnecessarily? Why does Khunying Mekhdeth (Lady Macbeth) call on evil spirits to possess her while praying before a Buddha statue? Etc.

Our cast and crew motto was: Fight Fear with Art; Make Art with Love…. We needed a brave set motto, since in the making of the film we faced literal hell fire (red shirt occupation and riots in 2010 which closed down the filming for two weeks, made it a hassle for everyone to get to work, especially Lady Macduff who was daily and nightly harassed by red shirt guards so that she had to move, and once on 28th April stranded us in Rangsit when the highway back to Bangkok was cut off when violence broke out and a soldier was shot dead by a sniper)….

Balanced and Fair…? Instead of demanding accuracy from a low-budget horror movie, why don’t you pose such questions to Newsweek, which has just named Yingluck as one of “150 Women Who Shake the World” alongside Aung San Suu Kyi and Hilary Clinton, praising her as one whose election “inspired hope of reconciliation in a country torn apart by two years of violent political protests…. Er, no, you can’t use my spittoon.

Linking to the horror of the October 1976 massacre, Ing K. says:

Instead of crazed royalists, however, now we have other violent, unreasoning, fanatical morons to be scared of, courtesy of the alchemical spin of the Thaksin machine.

…red is the universal colour for violence.

That is all controversial and politically one-sided stuff. That censors can’t stand the heat such a controversial film might generate, if it first generates an audience, tells us a lot about their fears. It is as though the censors consider Thais children who can’t be trusted with difficult and controversial ideas.  PPT reminds the censors that children grow, rebel, dissent, and may come to replace paternalistic ideas and values with something better.

Update: As might be expected, by banning the film, it now has plenty of publicity. When PPT last checked, Google was listing almost 300 media reports. We haven’t looked at them all, but found this report in the Christian Science Monitor useful.

Abhisit, coups and “rule of law”

2 02 2010

The breathless discussion of coups is on all sides of the political divides in Thailand. Doing what he does best, prancing about with the rich and powerful and speaking to journalists who have little knowledge of Thailand, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has spoken on coups while at Davos (Associated Press, 30 January 2010).

Abhisit sees “no threat of his government being ousted in a coup despite speculation back home, insisting that the rule of law would triumph over intimidation.” Recall that it was only a week ago that he said: “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).

In his Associated Press interview Abhisit said “any talk of his government being overthrown was linked to the February court decision on whether to confiscate more than $2 billion in assets linked to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and his supporters’ attempts to destabilize the country.”

Abhisit seems to be talking about destabilization and a coup from Thaksin Shinawatra supporters. On that side, the red shirts are demonstrating to oppose a coup or a “self-coup” by the government. PPT was listening to red shirt community radio yesterday and all the talk was of a coup to stabilize the government rather than bring it down. The opposed viewpoints are interesting indeed.

Abhisit made all of his now standard claims: “We have turned the economy around,” and claims to be “reaching out to all sections of the population.” He adds: We are also observing the rule of law.” All of this is debatable but it is now the mantra, especially for the foreign audience.

Abhisit said there was no need for any political change outside of new elections.” And he promised to hold elections when there were assurances that violence and intimidation tactics would be avoided.” This, too, is a mantra and could mean anything Abhisit wants it to mean or could be a justification for no election until there is absolute certainty of a royalist-Democrat Party triumph. Delaying elections beyond the required date could be “fixed” if that was required.

And, of course, in the normal course of events, there is just too much loot at stake in the Thai khemkaeng projects for parliament to be dissolved anytime soon.

Addressing his political opponents, Abhisit makes yet another remarkable claim. He blames them for “speculation about violence…”. This is a hollow claim when one looks at the record of the government’s own claims and use of the Internal Security Act, always justified by intelligence regarding violence.

Abhisit also “acknowledged that some in Thailand were ‘frustrated’ that the legal system has been slow in addressing transgressors among his own supporters…”. He says: “There’s been constant progress on the work of the police on all those cases…”. Really What’s the evidence for this? If there is any, PPT hasn’t seen it yet. For the time-being, we’ll consider this another of Abhisit’s fibs that he is so prone to utter when speaking of his brand of “rule of law.”

Following up on corruption

6 01 2010

A reader has suggested that we follow these stories on corruption and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government and tha capacity for corruption allegations to destabilize the coalition, especially as the Deputy Health Minister holds out on resignation over the Thai Khemkaeng projects. Our reader suggests beginning with this interesting editorial in The Nation

He them suggests looking at General Pathomphong Kasornsuk’s letter to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to urge him to set up a committee to investigate the army’s procurement scheme for GT200 bomb detectors, and the surveillance airship being used in the South:

Then see this claim by a contractor for the Thai Khemkaeng stimulus package of 20 % kickbacks to politicians in return for the Transport Ministry’s construction projects:

Interesting how many of these reports are surfacing. It seems that the only corruption now “missing” from the growing list relates to the Office for Sufficiency Economy Community Projects. It is also interesting that many of these allegations are initially being raised through the Peua Thai Party.

Corruption admitted

29 12 2009

PPT has to give credit where it is due. The Minister of Health has announced that he will resign over a report on corruption in the Thai khemkaeng projects associated with his ministry (The Nation, 29 December, 2009, Public health minister resigns”). Less than 2 weeks ago PPT expressed concerns that these investigations were going nowhere, despite our first post on the topic that concluded: “It seems unlikely that this case – with complaints from groups that should be Democrat Party allies – will be able to be kept quiet and out of the headlines, unlike the earlier case of corruption and nepotism in the Office for Sufficiency Economy Community Projects. That case seems to have all but disappeared now that it is run by palace cronies.

Witthaya Kaewparadai “ announced his intention to quit as a show of responsibility for lapse of duty in supervising the … project.” The report that prompted his resignation statement is also reported in The Nation (29 December 2009: “‘Guilty’ of negligence”).

The investigation panel recommended “disciplinary action over purchase orders for overpriced medical equipment and supplies” in the ministry. In addition, several other political appointees and officials were named, accused of negligence.

The panel’s report made it clear that evidence and testimony showed a high probability that politicians and senior officials had been involved in unusual procurement of medical equipment under the Bt86-billion Thai Khemkhaeng stimulus package.” This included “budget allocations for hospital construction [that] were skewed in favour of some politicians’ selected constituencies…” and “procurement plans [that] were unnecessary...”.

There was evidence of direct intervention by Deputy Minister Manit Nop-amornbodiand who was also “incriminated in an agreement to purchase overpriced ambulances.” The latter case also involved the minister’s secretary.

The government must now send the case on to the National Anti-Corruption Commission. At the same time, the Democrat Party-led government needs to ensure that the other allegations of corruption in the Ministry of Education and Office for Sufficiency Economy Community Projects get proper attention. PPT expects that these cases will be used by the Peua Thai Party in their censuring of the government.

Thai khemkaeng in Chiang Mai

19 12 2009

The government’s propaganda arm, the MCOT, reports on Thai khemkaeng projects from deep inside red shirt stronghold Chiang Mai (16 December 2009: “Bright investment outlook for Chiang Mai”).

While Chiang Mai might be a “political stronghold of Thailand’s former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, convicted of misusing the power of his office,” the MCOT tells its readers that the “investment outlook seems brighter in the year to come…”. Why is this? MCOT explains that it is “thanks to the government and private investments.”

The government has “at least five big projects are set to get off the ground next year, including an international exhibition and convention centre project … [and] a development project for road expansion to facilitate agricultural transport, a logistics system and a project to improve a local bus terminal in the provincial seat to support millions of incoming tourists.”

These projects “have a budget of over Bt3 billion (some US$90 million) from the government’s Strong Thailand Project, of which Bt18 billion (US$545 million) is allocated for the province…”.

The president of Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce is happy about the budget from the Strong Thailand Project, claiming that ” Bt4 billion ($121 million) has already been distributed to various projects here…”.

Big beneficiaries of this Thai khemkaeng investment are said to include “two big [real estate development] companies from Bangkok and Dutch investors planning  to “extend abut Bt3 billion ($90 million) for construction of a large department store…”.

The Abhisit Vejjajiva government continues to hope that pouring funds into “local” areas will improve the economy, create jobs and translate into votes. This is seen in the approach to the northeast (Bangkok Post, 18 December 2009: “Democrats set out plans for Northeast”), where the opposition Puea Thai Party is very strong but where the “Democrat Party is looking into extending the debt moratorium for village fund members as a means to woo northeastern voters…”. It also plans to increase funding to village development funds and to expand the  railway network.

Leading the charge are Deputy Prime Minister Korbsak Sabhavasu (already the subject of major corruption allegations associated with various government spending projects), Democrat deputy leader Kraisak Choonhavan (who only joined the party just prior to the last election),  and Democrat list MP Somkiat Pongpaiboon  (one of the leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, which now has its own New Politics Party). The Democrats also “showcased government projects such as the Thai Kem Kaeng (Thailand: Investing from Strength to Strength) scheme to stimulate the economy.”

Sound familiar? Remember the criticisms made of the Thaksin Shinawatra government accused of “policy corruption” that was considered the equivalent of vote buying? That kind of criticism was made by each of the Democrat Party politicians listed in the previous paragraph.

Bright investment outlook for Chiang MaiThe global economic downturn coupled with several of political turbulence have marred the investment atmosphere in Chiang Mai, a political stronghold of Thailand’s former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, convicted of misusing the power of his office, but the northern city’s investment outlook seems brighter in the year to come thanks to the government and private investments.

In the public sector alone, at least five big projects are set to get off the ground next year, including an international exhibition and convention centre project on a piece of land covering over 300 rai (about 120 acres). There is also a development project for road expansion to facilitate agricultural transport, a logistics system and a project to improve a local bus terminal in the provincial seat to support millions of incoming tourists.

All these will have a budget of over Bt3 billion (some US$90 million) from the government’s Strong Thailand Project, of which Bt18 billion (US$545 million) is allocated for the province, while provincial authorities expect to generate more employment and income to stimulate the local economy.

According to the president of Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce, the budget from the Strong Thailand Project is one factor that will help improve the economy of Chiang Mai.

“As the budget for this project has been allocated mainly at the local level here in Chiang Mai, there’ll be more investment and construction for the primary infrastructure. Now Bt4 billion ($121 million) has already been distributed to various projects here,” said Narong Kongprasert, president of the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce.

Meanwhile, the vice president of the Real Estate Entrepreneur Association of Chiang Mai and Lamphun viewed that the property business in the region is outstanding and continues growing in this year’s last quarter following signs of economic recovery.

“The tendency of the housing development market in Chiang Mai this year hasn’t actually gone down,” said Paisan Phucharoen, the association’s vice president.

“Although there were problems of Thailand’s internal politics of colour codes in the beginning of the year, the economy in Chiang Mai in 2010  could in fact be vigorous, for I heard that there are two big companies from Bangkok which came to buy and plan to develop land here in the province.”

To show signs of the positive investment tendency, an instance of the private sector’s big investments is due to the fact that around Bt1.2 billion (some $36 million) has recently been invested in a housing development project, set to be completed early next year on a piece of land connecting Chiang Mai’s provincial seat and Hang Dong district, an area considered a prime location for real estate developers, and where other several projects are also under construction.

Also, as a city of undoubted potential, Chiang Mai has recently attracted a group of Dutch investors to extend abut Bt3 billion ($90 million) for construction of a large department store to be targeting over 14 million northern Thais.

From all investments planned ahead, the city has guaranteed itself that for the year to come it is still a jewel for many who love to discover more of this land called the ‘Rose of the North’ filled with its Lanna culture. (TNA)

Features : Last Update : 17:46:29 16 December 2009

Industrial and infrastructure projects

15 12 2009

This post is related to an earlier one on Thai khemkaeng.

Not everyone is happy to receive infrastructure and industrial projects. The Bangkok Post (9 December 2009: “Coal plant fuels Section 67 protest”) reports that villagers in Chachoengsao are continuing their protests against the building of a coal-fired power plant. Prachatai (7 December 2009: “Locals say no to second deep sea port in Songkhla”) also reported opposition to a deep sea port and a planned petrochemical industry in Songkhla. Both groups have linked their claims to the massive problems at Map Ta Phut.

The Democrat Party-led government is desperate to get such projects going as it thinks its electoral fate depends on an economic recovery. Its response to Map Ta Phut has involved getting royalist, industrialist and former unelected prime minister Anand Panyarachun involved.

The Nation (12 December 2009: “List of harmful industrial activities due next week: Anand”) reports that Anand heads a small committee that will report a “list of industrial activities that seriously damage the environment, health and communities … at the end of next week…”. This sounds very much like closing the gate after the horse has bolted.

Anand’s panel is sorting out two different lists of dangerous industries: “one produced by the Industry Ministry, which in September announced a list of eight harmful activities; and another proฌposed by Thongchai Phansawat, an engineer and senior pollution expert who is an adviser to the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry. His list contains 19 damaging activities.” The committee is also reported to have “agreed to revise environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and health impact assessments (HIAs) but did not say how these would be improved.”

Anand also said a “preliminary resolution to the Map Ta Phut dispute will also be finished by the end of this month…”. This seems likely to involve the hasty formation of an “independent environmental and health organisation” that will report to the Office of the Prime Minister “in order to help the economy move forward.” According to a report in The Nation (15 December), “The owners of 19 energy projects in Map Ta Phut and nearby areas in Rayong stand to suffer opportunity losses amounting to Bt88.7 billion a year.”

And here’s the link to Thai khemkaeng: Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva “expressed concern that Thongchai’s list would affect the government’s Thai Khemkhaeng … stimulus package and the nation’s economic recovery.”

For more background on Map Ta Phut, see Chang Noi (14 December2009: “Landmark judgment for people, environment, and the rule of law”).

Thai khemkaeng and the government

15 12 2009

Thanks to an observant reader who has sent us a bunch of links, PPT is able to provide some updates on the Thai Khemkaeng (Strengthening Thailand) projects that we briefly mentioned in a recent post. There PPT noted that Kan Trakulhoon, president of the Crown Property Bureau’s industrial “crown jewel,” the Siam Cement Group (SCG), had called for faster spending on these projects to support economic recovery. We also observed that SCG is the main company involved in the ongoing and horrendous pollution problems at Map Ta Phut.

There seems to be a bit of a campaign amongst pro-Democrat Party government business leaders to push for Thai khemkaeng projects to go ahead. Of course, PPT does not ignore the fact that, despite government claims, the economy remains in deep trouble, and any investment by government is going to be welcomed.

In the Bangkok Post (12 December 2009: “Thai Khem Kaeng: Where it matters most”), Virasak Sutanthavibul, an Executive Vice President at the Bangkok Bank has an article commenting on the scheme in the context of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Virasak believes that the “Thai government’s ‘Thailand: Investing from Strength to Strength’ – or Thai Khem Kaeng – project is an initiative … will help SMEs in both the long and short term.” The rationale for this assessment is that the “initiative aims to develop Thailand’s infrastructure in areas such as transport, alternative energy, irrigation, education and health. Unlike the earlier megaprojects plan, Thai Khem Kaeng also includes small and medium-sized projects so SMEs will be able to compete for some contracts.”

But here’s the rub: “For the bulk of Thailand’s SMEs, however, the greatest opportunities lie with becoming suppliers to the larger companies that win the contracts.” Virasak says there’s also a general benefit as the project  will  inject “money into the Thai economy. The government’s total investment package is said to be about 1.5 trillion baht and this will be matched by additional investments from the private sector. Given the multiplier effect, the value of the government’s expenditure will multiply many times over and this will have a strong stimulating effect throughout the economy.” Virasak is probably right but like Kan of SCG, corruption seems ignored.

In a related report, Phuket Wan (14 December 2009: “Phuket’s Big Budget Boost for Twin Projects”) reports that Phuket “has been granted a huge budget boost for the financial year that begins in October 2010, with Cabinet approving spending of 10 billion baht.”That’s roughly a 6% boost to Phuket’s usual budget.

Where are the funds going? To Thai khemkaeng projects: “Most of the money is headed for two big projects, 5.8 billion for the Phuket International Airport upgrade and 2.6 billion for the conference and sport centre at Mai Khao, in the island’s north. Most of the additional 1.6 billion will go on a plan to provide a year-round water system for the island’s north.” These projects will be gobbled up by big contractors who are usually politically-engaged. The Democrats and PAD are both strong in Phuket.

With all of the corruption allegations fading from memory – with no results reported about investigations that were all government-controlled – the pressure is on to get more funds out to support the economy and, not coincidentally, the government’s backers.

%d bloggers like this: