Friday, May 29, 2009

Next time, hand out condoms, not towels.

From today's The Nation:

EC to file charges against Suthep
Commission will file a charge of electoral fraud against Deputy Prime Minister and Democrat Party secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban for handing out towels carrying his and the party's name.....
A similar charge would also be filed against Democrat politicians Chumpol Kanchana and Praphon Ninwatcharamanee for handing out towels with their and the party's name to people at a Songkran celebration last year, the commissioner said.

Call for cheap access to female condoms
The government was urged Thursday to make more effort to help women get access to female condoms, which were described as an important tool to reduce the risk of HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhoea and syphilis.
"The government should work hard to increase alternative options for women to protect themselves from HIV/Aids infection," said Tissadee Sawangying, the coordinator of a health and opportunity network....
She said female condoms were important for women who had limited capacity to get their husbands or partners to wear condoms during sexual intercourse.

I'm not sure if the actual condoms will be able to carry the party's name, (and I doubt anyone will be reading it anyway:), however I wonder if the EC would object to the packet being emblazoned with something like:
"With compliments from Chamlong, Saeng Thien Haeng Dharma Party"

Its all for a good cause:)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Thai Politicians, Military, Police, Business, Academic & Bureaucratic Elite Manipulators

I hope Karma exists
(in other words, if you don't change your ways, may you all rot in hell!)

Reform or Perish (originally posted 15/4/09)

Its all been said before, back & forth we go about Prem, Thaksin, uneducated masses, corrupt, selfish, manipulative, greedy elites & military, police, politicians, third hands, thainess, aversion to loss of face etc etc etc.

Hopefully I have the self control to make this my final comment on Thai politics:
Update: Please, Please, Please let this be my last word on fucking Thai politics!

Now is the time for Abhisit to decide how he wants to go down in history - it's his choice whether he is seen as another in a long line of elite manipulators, or a true reformer.

Update: I put too much emphasis on Abhisit, who in reality may have little real power - So it's not only Abhisit who has to decide, it's also the Privy Council, Thaksin, the Generals, the Yellow & Red leadership, the old style Local/Regional Lords, and the Monarchy.

Whichever route he chooses, he is unlikely to win a fair election in the short term, but if he chooses reform he at least will eventually be fondly remembered by the majority
(and he is actually young enough that he might one day win an election fair & square, once the masses realize that no one is semi-divine, not HMK nor Thaksin)

Choose wrongly, and blowback is inevitable.

Obviously, there are quite a few others who also could make a difference, but I still think the most important players are still Thaksin, Prem & Abhisit.

Thaksin & Prem have already had ample opportunities to change and have shown no sign of doing so - time is not on Prem's side and his successor is unlikely to have nearly as much clout, so unless they are bloodyminded & stupid enough to go the Burma route, change is inevitable.

Update: Unfortunately, from what I have seen from the leaders on both sides, change for the better looks very remote.

Thaksin is in a lot of hot water now, but I dont think it is too late for him to change - if he started to show some remorse and humility, he could be back sooner than expected - and I don't mean grovelling to Prem, rather he needs to be honest about the good and the bad of his own past actions - if he can do that there is probably no need for the yellow shirts to even exist.

Whether the red shirts need to exist will depend on what Abhisit does, but he has had enough warning from events over this Songkran, that if he chooses wrongly then the next uprising will be much bigger and harder to quell (especially if the reds have dropped the blind allegiance to Thaksin by then)

It's up to the Thais to sort the mechanics of the reform, but obviously the constitution rewrite needs to be an inclusive consultative process, and any remaining contentious items will have to go to a fair referendum, with all sides having an equal opportunity to present their arguments.

Before that reform can even happen, the first obstacle to be tackled is whether to prosecute all leaders on both the yellow and red sides, or to grant amnesties all round - whatever they choose, both sides need to be treated equally, otherwise there will be blowback one way or the other.

I wish them good luck in sorting this political mess out, so they can then move on to resolving the Southern Thailand insurgency.
Make the wrong moves and the south wont be the only place where there is an insurgency.

Thailand needs change, the genie is out of the bottle, and the old ways to put it back in will no longer work - heed the warnings!

Update: In addition to the powerful elite needing to change, there are others who can also contribute to positive change:

1. Academics, bloggers & political activists on both sides of the fence could try to be less partisan, stop playing for a team and wanting your team to win at all costs, and instead be more honest about the deficiencies of your own team, at the same time as pointing out the deficiencies of the other team.

2. Newer, lower ranking 'moderate' politicians & bureaucrats could reach out to those on the other side, forget old allegiances, and instead work towards improving the rules of the game, instead of relying on hanging off the coattails of a puu yai, warlord or demagogue.

3. The people (rich, middle class & poor masses) all could try to wise up, do the right thing and reject all old ways of doing politics, and reject any politicians who still want to do things that way.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Rethinking Strategy

I've never really been a student of wars, civil wars, peace outcomes and such, however I was listening to a radio conversation about the Sri Lankan situation where the concepts of just war, premature peace, and lasting peace were considered.

The contention is that peace is more lasting if one side has an overwhelming victory, and civil wars that settle through compromise have a greater chance of re-erupting (30% from memory, compared to 12% for the wars resolved with an overwhelming victory to one side)

That got me thinking to the Thailand political situation, and made me ponder the following questions:

- Is there a chance that a smoothing of tensions now would be a premature peace?

I suppose it would depend on what form the smoothing (compromise) took - if it was a mere settlement with Thaksin, then it is fairly obvious the conflict would inevitably return as the underlying inequalities would remain.

- Is either side capable of an overwhelming victory?

I think this time the old guard cannot win unless they go the Burma/Nth Korea route, in which case there would be NO real winner

Without Thaksin as their leader, the reds (presumably the masses) have a just cause, and if Thailand wants to remain part of a globalized world, then it is clear they are the only side that is capable of ultimate victory.

- Who is reading this long game correctly?

Abhisit and the Democrats seem to be throwing olive branches on aspects of political reform, but at the same time are imposing more draconian measures on dissent.
To me it looks like they are still trying to win the war using the old methods that have been succesful in previous battles, just refined a little for the current times - IMO, those methods will no longer work unless the country has very large resources that the rest of the world wants, a very large population (closer to billions than tens of millions) or nuclear weapons.

On the other side there are conflicting signals:

Thaksin (whether of his own volition or that of his 'paid advisers' :) lately is distancing himself from the role of leader of the revolution - he seems to be reading the long game, and obviously hopes to regain the spoils from the expected ultimate victory by the masses.

Then there is Jakrapob sniping away talking about revolution including possible new strategies using violence & weapons....he too seems to be reading the long game, and seems set on trying to forge a name for himself - I still am having trouble foretelling how he will go down in history: It could be as a great freedom fighter, a paid lackey of a master manipulator, or even a well intentioned fool - only time will tell!

I think the question of premature peace is an important one in the Thailand political situation, and hope my shallow thoughts here can give the deeper thinkers something to ponder.
Sorry, no deep analysis from me as that's somehing I am not capable of - too intellectually lazy, and am in awe of my fellow bloggers on the Thai situation (the only thing we have in common is that we blog, and the fact that they are capable of analysis shows the real difference between an 'opinionated nobody' and a good blogger or an academic)