Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New hobby

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My interest in the Thai political scene has waned, so being a glutton for punishment, and in keeping with the spirit of pursuing exercises in futility, I have moved on to a new hobby.

My new hobby involves the search for an understanding of spirituality, religion, philosophy and psychology, or in other words, the 'meaning purpose of life'.

Thanks to recent comments by Joy regarding Buddhadasa which stemmed from a link to an article by Phra Phaisan Visalo which was posted as a comment by Dhammanusari in a New Mandala thread , I am currently working my way through listening to some talks by Krishnamurti.

I would be interested to hear comments from anyone who has already been down that path.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's been fun (well, sort of.....)

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In her last comment, Joy said: "Lately, however,most of us do not post much anymore..perhaps everyone gets a bit worn out by the repetitive pattern of things???".

Thanks for the great comments, Joy.

What's needed is for people to let go of preconcieved ideas and be more open to other viewpoints in the debate and discussion.

That applies not only to Thais but also to many of the various foreign academics (and bloggers) who have weighed into the disputes.

Most of us wish for the best for Thailand, but usually it is in our own way without due consideration of others who see things differently.

I tend to focus on Thaksin, because I find it hard to accept so many people idolising him, when in my eyes he is clearly ethically and morally suspect, and therefore not suitable PM material.

However, at the same time I abhor the military and poo yai network, and the corruption that pervades every level of thai society.

Anyway, I don't live in Thailand, and am never likely to, so it's not my problem, and it's really up to those closer to the country to find the solutions (and live with them).

Personally, I like the concept of Sufficiency Economy, but it obviously should not be mandated as policy for a whole country, and rather should be seen as sensible advice for individuals (and even corporations).

I also admire much about Chamlong and the Santi Asoke movement, particularly the vegetarianism, organic farming, work ethic and what I consider a more rational view of Buddhism, however I abhor the cultish aspects of the group.

Overall, in the 'red' v 'yellow dispute' I sympathize with the old yellows who wanted to stop a new demagogue becoming entrenched in Thailand, however the means used to achieve that were ultimately wrong.

I also sympathize with the 'reds', however UNFORTUNATELY I suspect if they ever see through, and see past, Thaksin, it will be a greatly reduced (minority) movement.

As for the lese majeste laws - I think the Strekfuss proposal of only having the charge made by or with consent of the palace is the obvious solutions as it respects the monarchy and at the same time would eliminate most of the problems with the law.

Anyway, I'm currently trying to withdraw from the scene, but like an addict I may keep coming back for a few 'hits' now and then.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Blueprint for world peace

(possibly my last rant, as the lack of logic in the Thai political debate has finally worn me down, and there are better things I can spend my time on - I might post the odd comment here and there, but I really do need a new hobby!)


Suwicha Thakhor says:
Thais are starting to think new things, have new ideas,” he said. “I don’t belong in jail. If we disagree about politics, we must talk to find a solution.

That's the problem - too many people are not interested in talking - they wish to stubbornly stick to their own preconceived ideas, and either ignore (or crush) any opposing viewpoints.

Obviously, not all Thai's are stubbornly ignorant, but there are enough of them to make any progress on political reform, and human rights issues, excruciatingly slow.

This wilful ignorance can be seen on both sides of the fence, but it is far worse on the 'yellow' side, than on the 'red' side.

On the 'red' side the most blatant ignorance relates to the way they wear their rose colored glasses regarding Thaksin - they either don't know, or don't care, or simply choose to overlook Thaksin's obvious ethical and moral wrongdoings and manipulations:
-tax avoidance through the use of nominees and tax havens, human rights issues such as the war on drugs, Tak Bai etc, media intimidation, manipulation of various institutions to his ends and general policy corruption.....

At least the 'reds' have some excuse for their ignorance - firstly they have less access to quality education, and secondly they genuinely appreciated the efforts that Thaksin (Thai Rak Thai) made to improve their lot, such as the 30 baht health scheme initiative and the village revolving credit initiative.
*Here I am talking about the old Thaksin loving 'reds' - I'm not holding my breath, but there is a slight sliver of a chance that the new 'reds' will move beyond Thaksin and become a genuine democratic movement, instead of operating under the old client-patron model.
A lot will depend on it's leadership, but IMO if people like Jakrapob still hang on to Thaksin's coattails, then that transformation will take a long time to happen (if at all).

Giles shows quite a lot of promise, but he too, IMO, shows wilful ignorance - mainly due to his habit of interpreting or twisting things, or events, to suit his preconceived ideas (from his Marxist view of the world). He and the democracy movement would be better served by being more open and accepting to other viewpoints and possible explanations of events.

On the other hand, the 'yellows' have very little excuse for their ignorance (other than decades of propaganda!)
Here, I am referring specifically to the current, remaining 'yellows' as, IMO, the original PAD supporters of 3 years ago had genuine grievances against Thaksin, and many were sincere in wanting a better (democratic) government.
Many 'yellows' have had access to much better education than the poor masses, and most of them, especially the PAD leaders, should know better than the hate talk they have been spewing for the last several months.
I'm not even sure whether it is ignorance in their case, or rather something much more sinister - in addition to nationalistic rants and personal vilification, they have also been disingenuous in bringing up many of Thaksin's wrongdoings, when in reality they seem to find those things quite acceptable, as long as the ones doing it are part of their old club, and not some new demagogue like Thaksin.

The political parties continue to be a major obstacle to genuine democracy - the old, Banharm style, patron led, parties are hopeless.
The Democrats, whilst they are more 'presentable', are still a major disappointment, and they owe way too much to a certain (banned from politics for 5 years) kingmaker who just happens to be sitting in the box seat for possible musical chairs in the future.
That leaves Puea Thai Party (PTP) - it's probably still operating under the patron model judging by the close involvement of the Shinawatra clan. If Chalerm as likely leader isn't enough to put you off, just have a look at the seven impeachment/censure points against Abhisit to give you an idea of their potential:
- Being involved in calling for royal intervention to appoint a prime minister as per Article 7 of the suspended 1997 charter, "proof" of anti-democracy and a link to the People's Alliance for Democracy, which sought changes via non-parliamentary means.
- Grabbing power by illegitimate means with the support of certain leading figures, so a minority usurped power from the majority.
- Acting like a mastermind or an accomplice for the PAD - even though its activities have been illegal - and obstructing democracy under the King as head of state.
- Intentional evasion of the organic law on political parties, by involvement in the cover-up of financial contributions made by a listed public company, and by failing to properly spend the party subsidy received from the Election Commission.
- Failure to uphold territorial integrity, as enshrined in Article 1 of the Constitution, evidenced by a neighbouring country constructing a road inside Thai territory to access Preah Vihear Temple.
- Falsifying a Democrat membership for Thanin Jaisamut, as per the document sent to Satun electoral office on April 20, 2008, even though Thanin was banned by the Election Commission and hence not qualified for party membership.
- Graft violation by instructing Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij to organise a campaign for SMS messaging via mobile phone operators. This cost millions of baht, but operators waived the charges, tantamount to demanding and accepting undue benefits, a graft offence as per Article 103 of the anti-graft law.


The picture is even worse when you take into account the partisan nature of many NGO's, and judging by the frequent calls for Buddhism to be named as the state religion we cannot even rely upon the Buddhist establishment for some sanity.

The picture is already bleak enough, so I will even not bother commenting on the military or the police, or the thing that might one day blow everyone out of the water, the southern insurgency.


In closing, here is an exchange from the recent Oxford event with Giles - it went something like this:
(it is around the 50 minute mark if you would like to listen for yourselves)

Question from the floor: 'When you said about the Crown Prince and his wife and you said everyone in Thailand has access to a computer, I myself was in Thailand before and I had access to a computer and I haven't see that picture. And the fact that you mentioned about that picture is no proof you didn't even see it for yourself....'

Giles: 'Give me your email and I'll send it to you'

Response back from the questioner: 'Well I don't wish to see it!'

Giles: 'Yeah, right'

I rest my case.
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Monday, March 9, 2009

Come on Thaksin - Please spill the beans

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Update
Another interview, this time with the Far Eastern Economic Review:

When you go back will you play a political role, do you see yourself as being prime minister again?

'Well, it depends on the future; it depends on the political development in Thailand. But I hope that democracy will be in Thailand soon. And if the Thai democracy has not been developed to a mature stage, Thailand will never prosper and be stable. If you can remember Amartya Sen’s books, they are talking about if the country does not have democracy the people might face starvation, so I think democracy is really needed for Thailand and the rule of law'.

Do you think that you yourself might share some of the blame for the situation?

'I don’t think so. If you play by rules, if you respect the rules, if you are not boycott election, if you go election if you lost you lost, you win you win, if that the case nothing can happen. But because you are not able to win under the games, so you want to kick out me and then change the whole rules of the game. So that’s why the people cannot live with the society without the rule of law'.


Rule of Law - pity he didn't think that way when he was PM!
(Those drug war victims must be groaning in their graves or cremation urns)


Would a royal pardon clean the slate?

'Well, you know, we probably have to go back to square one. Which is bring all the people back to square one, that is there shouldn’t be any case against each other politically any more. And from now after we do the reconciliation, if anyone did something wrong it must be according to the rule of law'.

This reconciliation talk sounds promising, but I doubt those behind the yellow's will be interested due to the massive rural vote still enamored to Thaksin.
The old elites need 'new politics' to overcome the 'Thaksin factor', but IMO a better reconciliation solution would be to somehow contractually bind Thaksin and his immediate family from re-entering politics for a lengthy period.



He also talks about economic issues, criticizes Abhisit's follow the others stimulus package, but when pressed for further details he is light on specific recommendations and doesn't offer much more then wishy washy statements:
'sit down and map out new strategies'
and
'where is Thailand going to stand? Where is the point where Thailand is going to be? We have to have strategy of where Asia is heading for and where Thailand will be part of it'
and
'So you have to balance everything. You have to plan the growth. You have to plan the change. You have to plan the future by infrastructures …physical infrastructure and infrastructure for new talent. So you have to plan and drive it. Sometimes policy may be the same but implementation may not be the same.'

I suspect he doesn't really have any specific idea's, and even if he does, he knows the safer strategy (to look like an economic savior) is to just criticize what Abhisit is doing, because it's obvious that the prospects for success are low.



Original Post
Thaksin interviewed in Time magazine:

"We have to ask those who are behind the divisiveness to stop meddling into the system. When I was in power, there was a meeting in one house on Sukhumvit [Road in Bangkok] and one of the attendees revealed to me--and I have the tapes of what happened--that the meeting was about getting rid of me, by assassinating me or getting rid of me through politics or through the courts. I know who these people are. I'm thinking of naming names, but I'm afraid that may make the whole situation worse. I have to be extremely cautious. I have to bite my tongue and taste my own blood."

He's made the threat so often, and been on the losing end for most of the last 2 years without pulling the trigger, that I'm starting to suspect it is an idle threat.

He might have nothing that can stick, but more likely is that he knows so much that he cannot let it out for fear of bringing everything down like a house of cards, including stuff that he and his cronies had a hand in.

The rest of the interview he sounded almost reasonable (looks like he has learned something from Abhisit!), and he might even be in the mood for compromise judging by the 'bury the hatchets' talk.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Censorship

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Update
I have been thinking more about why I removed the link to that video.
At first I thought I did not want to be actively involved in passing on details of what would normally be a persons private life, but I now think that is not an appropriate reason in this case (because of the number of other people who were clearly also present at the event)
If those people were able to participate in the days celebrations, why shouldn't all Thai people be able to at least see a recording of the days events? - after all, they are provided with nightly television showings of other events, why not this one?
If the video is indeed authentic, then IMO it should be widely diseminated, so that everyone knows what the situation is - and they can each draw their own conclusions about it.
The reason I removed the link is that I cannot be 100% certain that the video is authentic, and therefore I do not want to be actively involved in it's disemination.
(that, and I'm basically gutless!)


Original post
Looks like even some non Thailand based sites are getting extra sensitive - One of my comments has been removed - It was published for several hours but now it has disappeared.

The comment they removed read something like this:
"btw, I never did get answers to my questions raised at ### above"

Sounds like a fairly innocuous comment doesn't it, especially as my comment ### is still there.

OK, I admit I was in a mischievous mood after reading the usual blurb from defenders of LM, and I can understand why the comment was removed - they no doubt don't want this sort of attention in the light of the current proposals to have the LM laws amended.

Well, I'm still in a mischievous mood, so here is my original comment I made more than a year ago:
"I just checked out the video link above, and found it fascinating, sad and somewhat titillating all at the same time. I realise the video is old, and this has probably all been discussed before, but I noticed what seemed like camera flashes going off during the video: - I wonder who else was present, or was it the servants taking photo’s? Also, has it been established whether the filming was done openly, or was the camera hidden?"


The video link I was referring to is [LINK REMOVED] - it no longer works, but......
(I have removed the link because I'm not feeling quite so mischievous, and don't wish to be too active in the gossip trade)

In addition to the questions raised in my original comment, I now have a few additional questions:

- Is the video authentic? (are the stars real and not just actors?)

Assuming it is authentic:
- If the filming was done openly, who leaked it? (and why?)

- Does the behavior depicted in the film really matter?
I think it does, but only because there were others present at the scene - the couple were presumably consenting adults, but the situation clearly was not private to them only.

- Should a revised LM law apply to the disemination of such videos, or should general libel/defamation/privacy laws be sufficient?

PS. Sorry if this post offends my one reader.

The LM circus continues

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from The Nation

Suthep against relaxing criminal code on lese majesty offences


Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban Friday expressed opposition to the academics' call for the abolition of Criminal Code's provisions on lese majesty offences.

He said the government has not yet discussed the academics' call for the amendments to the Criminal Code.

"But as a Thai, I see that the Royal Institute is the centre of Thai hearts … The laws state that non one can look down on or defame the Royal Family. So, I be against any attempt to amend the laws," Suthep said.

"As the deputy prime minister in charge of security affairs, I will not allow anyone to violate the honour of the Royal Family. But I won't allow anyone to abuse the Royal Family's name to harass others either."


Bangkok Post has translated it as:
"Whoever tries to persuade me to amend the law, I won't agree with them. I won't let anybody defame the monarchy. At the same time, I will make sure no one can use the monarchy as a tool to abuse others"


He should be kept to his word on that last sentence (whichever translation is correct), but the LM abuse goes much further than that.

Personally, I think clearly offensive & insulting posts should be removed by website administrators (forums & blogs) as a matter of courtesy, but journalists and academics need to be free from harassment in doing their work, and if that includes examining, or even calling into question royal actions, then so be it - The King has said as much in his 2005 speech!