Thursday, February 26, 2009

Giles at Oxford

Audio has been posted of the recent event at Oxford

Question time was quite interesting, and I admire Giles for the way he calls a spade a spade, and refuses to hitch on to the coattails of the elite of either side.

Quite funny (and sad) to see that the brainwashed were not too shy to have their say - listening to them makes me wonder if some even believe the King is not human, and instead some sort of semi-God who can never make mistakes - they need to listen again to his 2005 speech.

Reading all these political blogs can be depressing, so it was nice the way Giles described some good things about Thai culture, particularly the way children and the elderly are treated, and that there is actually not one thai culture - it is made up of many groups, including democracy defenders.

I would be very interested to hear other good things about Thai culture.
(please do not post of your sexploits - such comments will be deleted)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Double Standard

Section 112
: Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.

Darunee (Da Torpedo) said some things on the DAAD stage, was arrested, and has just been refused bail for the 3rd time.

Section 133: Whoever, defaming, insulting or threatening the Sovereign, Queen, Consort, Heir-apparent or Head of Foreign State, shall be imprisoned from one to seven years or fined from two thousand to fourteen thousand baht, or both.

Kasit said some things on the PAD stage and was appointed foreign minister.

No matter what Darunee said, the treatment of her has been outrageously harsh, and when viewed alongside the rise of Kasit it makes Thailand look like a sick joke.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hasty judgement of the Democrats?

Update here.

On top of Harry's release, there are also rumblings of warrants being issued soon for the PAD leaders.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What's going on in Sri Lanka?

What is the Sri Lankan government hiding? (warning graphic content may offend)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Giles says the Red Shirts are 'moving beyond Thaksin'

Giles in The Guardian says: 'Since his overthrow and as a result of the prolonged crisis, a grassroots "red shirt" democracy movement has developed. They are moving beyond Thaksin'.

Personally, I have my doubts that the unwavering, unthinking, Thaksin 'loving' is over, but if true, that spells great trouble for the ruling elites - they need Thaksin to be the bogeyman on which all the attention can be focused.

Informed, aware, and thoughtful masses will be much more dangerous to them in the long run than Thaksin ever was.

The comments on the Guardian article are also interesting, but if the thai newspapers and various thai political blogs are any gauge of public thinking, I think the Thaksin factor will be around for quite some time yet.

It will be interesting to see what those in power can 'cook up' to keep Thaksin in the spotlight, but I'm also looking forward to the time when he is truly out of the picture - our attention can then be focused on other battles.

If the masses do become more informed, the 64 thousand dollar question is will it be because of Thaksins removal or in spite of it - my guess is the former.
(lets not forget an informed masses would also have been dangerous for Thaksin)

Here's a great summary by Rahiri at comment 13 in this Bangkok Post story:
"The whole Thaksin affair was just a dispute among the business/military/political elite who continue to rape and pillage as they have done for ages.
Look at the facts - as reported recently in the BKK Post.
Dr Kongkiat, CEO of Asia Plus Securities observed this week in the Bangkok Post, "Around 71% of the seven trillion baht in bank savings is in accounts holding more than one million baht. Some 67,000 accounts have balances of more than 10 million baht." In other words most people in Thailand have no money, but a small number have a shit load. And we haven’t even mentioned overseas bank accounts.
Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij said "the farming sector ... currently brings in ten percent of Thailand's income but employs half the population. So a hit load of people earn very little on the tiny plots for which they often don't even have proper land title. Meanwhile most of the land in Thailand is owned by the same rich families and not a small amount is unproductive.
In Thailand there is no middle class and thus no real domestic market to respond to Abhisit's pump priming. Korn seems to be realising this now and was reported this evening as saying "a turnaround for the Thai economy was all but impossible unless the global economy improved".
Thailand is still a basically feudal society controlled by a small elite with an education system that functions primarily to reinforce the status quo (ever wonder why Thailand has no world famous brands, no Nobel prizes, no global innovations - because asking questions and seeking the truth are killed at school so the elite can keep control.
Thaksin's rape and pillage was no worse than any of his peers...but he fell foul of them because he wasn't afraid to play to the votes of the poor and actually deliver them a few filips to keep power. The elites behind the PAD have ever since been trying to put the genie back in the bottle because the prospect of the poor understanding the power of their vote and starting to demand a fair share is very threatening to status quo. Hence the demand for a 70% appointed representative! Appointed by who? Well of course....
It's not about vote buying - that's been the landscape of Thai elections since they began but if I accept 500 baht from a candidate who actually does a little to help me, instead of 200 baht from the candidate who does nothing for me - does that really make me stupid???
Now that exports which account for 65% of Thailands GDP are dead in the water, and the PAD airport closures dealt tourism a sucker punch when it was already beginning to gasp from the global slowdown, the just adequate employment and wages that allowed the poor to subsist and supplement their farming families lifestyles back home will be failing fast. What are all those people going to do back on the farms that can't support them? My guess is that more than a few are going to start getting angry.
PAD and UDD. You ain't seen anything yet! "

I agree this is the real battle, however I'm not so sure about the PAD airport occupation having a lasting effect on tourist numbers if the reports I've seen about numbers are already being back up and difficulty in finding rooms in some areas is correct.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Abhisit/Democrats have had their chance - what's next?


Have I been too hasty to judge the Democrats, and could they be slowly working to improve things (walking a tightrope or in a minefield)?
PAD leaders might be charged soon, and here is a quote from Harry Nicolaides lawyer after his release:

Nicolaides's lawyer, Mark Dean, SC, said his client was locked up as part of a ploy by the former Thai government to appear tough on critics of the country's monarchy.

"I think it's fair to say that Harry was a political prisoner, and that the reasons for the commencement of this case against him were inextricably linked to the political crisis in Thailand in August 2008," Mr Dean said. "But since then, conditions have changed in Thailand, there has been a change of government, and the current Thai Government has done everything it can to support Harry's case.

If they progress the political reform consultative process, and propose an amendment to the Lese Majeste law so that only the palace can make the charge, then they will have shown they are at least better than their predecessors.
IMO, proposing such an amendment would be a great way for them to show their respect for the monarchy, and it would help to stop the monarchy from being continually dragged into politics.

Tavivoot over at Thai Intelligent News has pointed out that conservatives only see encouragement to do the right thing as a sign of weakness.

That's a very good point, but I disagree that it only applies to conservatives - to me it seems to be a very common trait amongst politicians of all political persuasions, and not only in Thailand!

It may be worse in Thailand due to the fear of 'loss of face' being a factor in addition to the usual political considerations.

As an aside, perhaps that helps explain why Thaksin still has not shown any sign of remorse for things that went wrong (or were wrong!) under his watch.

Just like the PPP led government failed to act in a reasonable and competent manner, this current Democrat led government is doing the same.

Abhisit appears reasonable with his smooth talking, but it's actions that count in the long run.

The handling of the Rohingya issue looks bad from an outsiders perspective, but I could imagine it would have been handled even worse by a Samak or Thaksin PM.
(It should also be remembered that the initial boat people incident happened in December when the new government had just taken over, so it could hardly be Democrat policy that caused the scandal)

There are, however, other things that the Democrat led government has had more control over, and it is the handling of those matters that has shown that they are hardly any better than their predecessors:

- Kasit as FM
(his past words mean he has to go, and they have missed their opportunity to do it quietly in the interests of reconciliation)

- PAD leaders to be held accountable
(even if the airport occupation charges are still being investigated, surely there are still outstanding charges from the government house occupation that can be acted upon in the meantime - IMO, getting Sondhi L in jail will go a long way towards moving the country forward)

- Lese Majeste & Internet crackdown
(looked at on it's own, without consideration of the political realities, the Democrats handling of this matter has been disgraceful - IMO, they should be setting a positive example and leading the debate on how to have the LM laws changed so that the monarchy can be kept out of politics)

- Reconciliation, Political/Constitutional reform
(on this matter, the Democrats have again let political considerations get in the way of simply doing what's right - IMO, they should work with the opposition to get a satisfactory amnesty bill and to get a consultative process going for constitutional reform)

This is what I said when Samak was removed:
"Samak is gone - even though the cooking show trigger for his demise was nonsensical, I wont be shedding a tear for him - had his chances to be reasonable, he wasn't, so I say good riddance!"

It is not hard to foresee a day when I will be saying something similar for Abhisit.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Quality debate?

recent comments over at New Mandala are representative examples of thinking in Thailand, then all I can say is God help Thailand!

Samun Praram // Feb 12, 2009 at 3:50 pm

If we talk about the principle of Universal Human Right…then don’t you think the Thais have the rights to respect and revere their King and uphold the law, in which the country sees is best for them.

What most people in the west think is that the 65 million people in Thailand are so backward because their laws restrict them from what many in the west think is the rights everyone should have. But we’re ignoring the fact that this may be what they want to believe in. This maybe something that is important to them. Surely, they have the right to think and decide for themselves.

Sometimes we have to look beyond our belief, judgment and society and stop imposing that we think is right on other people. It is right that everyone should have the rights to basic rights and needs, freedom of speech, etc, but think about it…is there really such a thing as a Universal Human Rights?

I think we need to be more open-minded when we travel to other countries and respect the law. Taking action in what we believe in is a good thing, but respecting others’ beliefs and culture is also appropriate when you’re on ther others’ soil. We should ask ourelves…are we doing this because these people are being deprived of thier rights and need our help or are we doing this because we think we are more superior…we are right and they are wrong?

Jesse // Feb 12, 2009 at 11:46 am

Every country, there are rules that we do not agree, however, you must follow the law in the particular country you are in.

He is well awared of the consequences and yet he chose to do it. No matter how many copies the book’d sold, he still broke the law in the kingdom of Thailand !

Maitri // Feb 13, 2009 at 3:52 am

God help Thailand is people like Red Giles ever take power. We can look to our east or west to see what socialism does to any country that adopts this sickening ideology. Left-wing Westernizers like Giles, Taksin, and all their cohorts have lost touch with what it means to be a Thai. They would be more at home in Hollywood than in Bangkok.

Thailand is a Buddhist and the Thai people will never adopt the ideas of Giles Ungpakor with his advocacy of abortion, republicanism, and surrender to the Muslims of the south. Instead, we should return to what we are: the natural order of Thai civilization.

Look at Russia, After suffering under 70 years of Socialism, they are now returning to their historic and religious roots. We Thais should do the same. It is past time to undo the tragedy of 1932 and, once again, become officially the Buddhist Kingdom of Siam, wherein we can find the true spirit of being Thai.

None of the above posters may even be Thai (Jesse especially), but unfortunately those viewpoints do not seem uncommon.

IMO, these views are much more dangerous than those of Giles - You only have to look as far as Sri Lanka to see the outcome of ignoring human rights and trying to establish a Buddhist state!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Best thing I've seen written about the situation in Thailand

Two important statements about Thailand were released overnight.

Giles Ji Ungpakorn released his 'Red Siam' manifesto. Here's an extract:

It is not for one person to determine the common platform, which must of necessity be a collective decision. But as a staring point I offer the following ideas, the ideas of one red-shirted citizen.

1. We must have freedom of expression and the freedom to choose our own government without repression and fear.

2. We must have equality. We have to abolish the mentality of "big people-little people". We must abolish the practice of crawling to the royal family. Politicians must be accountable to the electorate, not to shadowy conniving figures beyond popular control. We need to build a culture where citizens respect each other. We must have freedom and equality of the sexes and among different ethnicities. We must respect women, gays and lesbians. We must respect Burmese, Laotians, Cambodians and the Muslim Malay people in the south. Women must have the right to choose safe abortions. Refugees should be treated with friendship and dignity as any civilised society would do.

3. Our country must be a welfare state. Taxes must be levied on the rich. The poor are not a burden, but are partners in developing the country. People should have dignity. The present exploitative society stifles individuals and destroys personal creativity.

4. In our country the king should honour his constitutional role and stop intervening in politics. But the ruling class in Thailand gain much from using the monarchy and they will not easily stop doing this. Therefore the best way to solve this problem is to build a republic where all public positions are elected and accountable.

5. For too long Thai society has been under the iron heel of the generals. We must cut the military budget and abolish the influence of the army in society ensuring that it can no long be an obstacle to democracy.

6. We must have justice. The judges should not claim power from the crown in order to stop people criticising their decisions. We must change the way that "contempt of court" laws are used to prevent accountability. We need to reform the justice system root and branch. We need a jury system. The police must serve the population, not extract bribes from the poor.

7. Citizens in towns and communities must take part in the management of all public institutions such as state enterprises, the media, schools and hospitals.

8. Our country must modernise. We need to develop the education system, transport and housing. We should create energy from wind and solar power to protect the environment.

9. Our country must be peace loving, not start disputes with neighbouring countries or support wars.

I fully support all but the last sentence of point #4 - instead I would seek the abolishment of the Privy Council, and an amendment to the lese majeste laws such that only the palace can make the charge.

I'm sure there will be much discussion of Ji's manifesto (even in Thailand), and kudos to him for sticking to his principles (unlike the current PM!)

Now, on to the BEST thing I have seen written about the Thai situation: it's here

Hat's off to the writer - I wish I could have written something like that.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Red Shirts make four demands

(photo courtesy of

The four demands are:
1. The government to take legal action against the People's Alliance for Democracy
2. To purge Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya
3. To re-enforce the 1997 constitution
4. To dissolve the House (after the readopting the 1997 charter).

What, if anything, should the Abhisit led government do in relation to these demands?

When the PAD started making demands of the PPP government, these are some of the things I said:
September 7, 2008
'The government should not give in to the PAD, but they also have a responsibility to try to move the country forward'.
August 31, 2008
'Even if PAD do not moderate their demands, Samak and the PPP need to act in a competent and reasonable manner, which I think means they should do the following:
- Address all of the PAD concerns in a reasonable manner.
- Dismiss (with proper explanation) those demands that are unreasonable and outlandish.
- Agree that the constitutional amendment process be a consultative process with parliamentary debate, followed by a public referendum.
- Undertake a public education program outlining how they have addressed the legitimate concerns of the PAD, and also outline how the unreasonable demands are bad for democracy.
- Once the above has been done, the PPP should set a deadline for the PAD protesters to disperse, and if the PAD protesters still fail to disperse then the deadline should be enforced with appropriate/reasonable force (such as tear gas & water cannons).
Simply dismissing the PAD as an unlawful mob and falling back on its own electoral legitimacy is not good enough and in my opinion is poor governance.
It is up to the government to act in a competent and reasonable manner, even if the PAD leadership wont! '

For some reason, the PPP failed to take my advice on those occasions - I wonder why?

The rest is history!

Again, in the interests of moving the country forward, here are my suggestions to this latest set of demands by protesters:

1. PAD prosecution:
Abhisit to give clear instructions to whichever departments are in charge of the PAD prosecutions, that the charges must be laid withing 14 days, or the department heads will be removed from their positions.

2. Kasit removal:
This should be done at the same time as other cabinet reshuffles, also within 14 days
(No need to concede anything, just do it as a goodwill gesture in the interests of reconciliation)

3. Constitution:
Even if it could be done, bringing back the 1997 constitution will not resolve the problems - Regarding, the constitution, I make the same suggestion to this Democrat led government as I gave the PPP led government (see above quotes & links)

4. Dissolve the house: (Update: If only I knew more about Chumpol's 'irresistible force' at the time of the original post:)
There is no need for Abhisit to do anything on this, other than to explain that the government came to power within the rules, and that a future dissolution and elections will also be held within the rules.
He could also explain that the same people that the UDD are now complaining about were once members of the PPP led coalition, so the UDD complaints are disingenuous anyway.

As for dealing with the protests generally, my advice to the Democrat government is the same as it was to the PPP led government.

Lets see if the outcome this time is any different.