Thailand Election Primer by Duncan McCargo

Watch this short video by Duncan McCargo for a quick roundup of Thailand’s coming election. Definitely worth watching the full 6 minutes.

Overthrow-The-Monarchy Mindmap Is Fake (Thai Army Admits)

Being involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the monarchy in Thailand is one of the most serious allegations that can be made against someone. No one would do so jokingly, particularly not in public. People can go to jail for life when they try to overthrow the monarchy.

Last year, the Thai army released a mindmap that showed a conspiracy to overthrow the monarchy, and some of the people involved.

It looked ridiculous to begin with, and nobody I know took it serious, other than that it was a real lowball by the authorities to harm their enemies.

Now, the Thai army “admits” that the map wasn’t really what they said it was… check out Bangkok Pundits post Thai army backtracks on the conspiracy to overthrow the monarchy chart.

Yingluck Overview

If you want a 2 minute overview on what people think online of Yingluck Shinawatra, check out this Globalvoices article: Thailand’s First Female Prime Minister.

Reuters also has an article on her titled Thaksin’s sister shakes up tense Thai election. To Reuters, she said that the two most important things to focus on first would be to help people with rising living costs, and to unite the country again.

Koh Samui Land Prices: 10 years, 100-fold increase?

According to an article by the Bangkok Post titled Crackdown on foreign nominee land sales in the past 10 years, land prices in some areas of Koh Samui have increased 100-fold. Imagine you’d have seen that coming 2001…

Thai Military Power: Less Freedom, More… uhhh… well, military power I guess

Pavin Chachavalpongpun (or Chachapingpong, as I would really prefer to call him, just because it would make for an awesome name) published Thailand’s Military on the Offensive – The Thai army politicizes the monarchy in the Wall Street Journal. It’s a good one, read it.

Dan Waites published Thailand: The new Burma? which he summarizes in the last paragraph:

Thailand obviously has a long way to go before it turns into Burma. But it’s already gone a lot further than many people realise.

And then there’s another one of these whining whiners who always complains when freedom of information and other rights are being crushed: Jon Russel. He published: Thai internet “not free” alongside China, Iran, Burma & others.

What his attention getting headline is omitting is this: among the “others” is Cuba! Cuba! Hey. Cigars, beautiful dark-skinned ladies, Buena Vista Social Club… That must be a good thing, right?

The article points out that according to some observers, Thailand is among the countries that are “most at risk of devolving into full-blown internet police states”.

20 Foreigners in Thailand arrested because they ran a 3m dollar boiler room

Bangkok used to be one of the hot spots for boiler rooms. In recent years, the government has cleaned up many of these boiler rooms, but some are still left. Now, they blew up a 3 million dollar boiler room.

Thailand Used Clusterbombs (Illegally) When Fighting Cambodia?

War is never nice, but cluster bombs are particularly nasty. And in fact, many countries (although not including Thailand) have made a pact that they won’t use cluster bombs anymore.

Yet, apparently they did just that in the recent conflict with Cambodia.

Read more about it here: Thailand fires cluster bombs into Cambodia (by Patrick Winn for Global Post)

In the meantime, the Thai government and army of course denies that is has used cluster bombs. Although, not really. The Thai army seems to have a different definition of cluster bombs than… well, anyone else. The bombs they have used are cluster bombs, according to the understanding of other nations and NGOs. However, according to the Thai army and government, they are similar to cluster bombs, but not quite really cluster bombs.

What’s so nasty about cluster bombs? They often lie around dormant for years until some kid or some farmer stumbles across them a couple of days, weeks, months or even years after the original conflict. And then they kill or main innocent people. The bombs that the Thai army used do just that same thing. But apparently, they are not cluster bombs because, they differ from cluster bombs… um… in exactly which way do they differ from cluster bombs please, Mr. Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Thai ambassador to the UN in Geneva?

Thailand #1 Worldwide When It Comes To Women In Senior Management Positions

Another proof of the power of Thai women in business circles is demonstrated through 2011 Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) survey, which shows that Thailand boasts the greatest percentage of women in senior management titles (45 per cent) in privately held businesses.

Across the world, Thailand is followed by Georgia (40 per cent), Russia (36 per cent), Hong Kong and the Philippines (both 35 per cent). The countries with the lowest percentages are India, the United Arab Emirates and Japan where fewer than 10 per cent of senior management positions are held by women. Women currently hold 20 per cent of senior management positions globally, down from 24 per cent in 2009, and up just 1 per cent from 2004. The percentage of private businesses that have no women in their senior management has risen to 38 per cent compared to 35 per cent in 2009.

“Thailand’s working culture provides equal opportunity to both men and women to reach senior management levels. Companies committed to diversifying their leadership mostly ensure that women have equal shots at ‘stretch’ assignments such as serving on company-wide task forces, being part of a start-up or turnaround operations, and gaining international experience. Top women emphasise their love of their jobs, and the hard work it took to get there. They ask for the challenging assignment. They are totally committed,” said Achara Boonyahansa, Business Development director of Grant Thornton Thailand.

The data revealed that G7 countries lag behind the global average with only 16 per cent of women holding senior roles whilst, regionally, Asia Pacific (excl. Japan) scores highest with 27 per cent. Women have become most successful in increasing their share of senior management roles in Thailand, Hong Kong, Greece, Belgium and Botswana, where the percentage of women in these roles has risen by at least 7 per cent since 2009.

“Being single or getting married late could be causes for Thai women being able to climb up corporate ladders. They are more likely to put in extra hours at work. Moreover, for married ones, they own the ability to balance work with their personal lives, with support from extended family to take care of their children. Employers also play supporting role by including work-life programmes in organizations such as maternity and childbirth leave, flexible work schedules, job-sharing, part-time work, compressed work weeks, and reduced duties, all of which offer women the flexibility to manage home-work conflicts as best suits them, while maintaining productivity levels. In some cases, guarantees are offered to individuals to safeguard their position or level of seniority and the continuation of their health and other benefits. In addition, companies often offer programmes such as satellite workplace, which utilise new technologies to enable employees to work from home for at least some part of their working week,” Achara said.

Of the companies that employ women in senior managerial positions globally, 22 per cent employ them in financial positions (eg Chief Financial Officer/Finance Director). This is followed by Human Resource Director (20 per cent), Chief Marketing Officer and Sales Director (both 9 per cent).

Globally just 8 per cent of companies with women in senior managerial positions have a female Chief Executive Officer (CEO). However the story is different in Asian economies, Thailand leads the way with 30 per cent of companies employing female CEOs, followed by mainland China (19 per cent), Taiwan (18 per cent) and Vietnam (16 per cent).

Source: The Nation

Cambodian Soldiers in Preah Vihear

Remember what Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry said?

“There has never been and there will never be Cambodian soldiers at the temple of Preah Vihear. This has always been a place for worship and tourism”

Well, that might not have been the most accurate statement their FM has ever released.

Associated Press journalists who visited the temple Wednesday found hundreds of Cambodian soldiers deployed in and around the sprawling temple compound, which was fortified by sandbagged bunkers.

Source: Cambodia troops bunkered at cliff-top Khmer temple

Thailand: 90% of the land owned by the richest 10%

Is there really an urgent need for land reform?

Is an effort to cap land ownership at 50 rai per household a pipe dream in a country where 90% of the land is already owned by the richest 10%? Is it possible to usher in a ceiling on land ownership and a progressive land tax law when legislators in both the House of Representatives and the Senate own an average of over 100 rai of land per person?

When I raised my doubts to land reform advocate Permsak Makarapirom, he shot back: “If not, are you ready to see Thailand on fire?”

It is not a threat, he added. The country’s current political turmoil is rooted in structural injustice which has fuelled popular discontent nationwide. At its core is the scandalous land ownership system. “We must undo it while we still have time. Otherwise, we’re doomed.”


Other measures include progressive land tax for those who have more than the 50-rai ceiling, the setting up of a transparent, online database of land ownership nationwide, as well as a land bank to buy idle land from private owners and to manage the massive acreage of idle state land for distribution to landless farmers. Mr Permsak is not exaggerating when he describes the country’s land ownership structure as scandalous.

According to the Land Institute Foundation, about 6 million people or 10% of the population own 90% of the country’s land. Yet 70% of these plots are speculative land left idle or under-used by absentee landlords. The economic damage from idle land is estimated at 127 billion baht a year.

Isn’t it scandalous when such land excess among the privileged few is allowed while 40% of the farmers do not even have their own land or do not have enough to become self-reliant?

Isn’t it scandalous when 4.8 million farmers lack land to till while 30 million rai of farmland cannot be used because it is locked in bankruptcy lawsuits?

The national policy to expand official forest zones by annexing villagers’ farmland has also caused landlessness and mass fury at state injustice nationwide. While land and forestry authorities turn a blind eye to the rich amassing scenic forest land illegally, the national park laws have outlawed 2,700 communities where 1.2 million villagers have lived for generations.

During 2007-8 alone, nearly 10,000 villagers were arrested and sent to jail. Many of them were forest dwellers arrested right on their ancestral lands.

In the restive South, land rights conflicts with the Buddhist Thai state are among the chief resentments of the ethnic Malay Muslims there. How to defuse the political explosion ahead – not only in the deep South but across the country?

Apart from land ownership restructuring, the prescriptions from the National Reform Committee include strict agricultural zoning and community land ownership to keep farmland in farmers’ hands. They are prohibited, however, from renting out their land or leaving it idle, to ensure land productivity.

The villagers who have been arrested under the unjust forestry law must also be released, Mr Permsak urged.

Easier said than done, you might say. But Mr Permsak insists it is possible if people come to realise the catastrophes ahead without land reform.

To start with, the present generation of farmers who average 50 years of age, will be the country’s last. Their children will no longer farm due to low returns from tenant farming. New farmers, meanwhile, have no access to farmland due to high prices. Agro-giants might benefit from all this, but at the huge cost of community breakdown nationwide. Imagine the frustration, the anger, from the colossal influx of the rural poor into a biased system that chains them aside while the rich enjoy national wealth at centre stage.

Well… not as urgent as an inflamed appendix, but I’d call it urgent enough.

ThaiCambo Conflict Because of Internal Trouble, Not Trouble With Cambodia

the roots of the conflict lie in Thai domestic politics and the rise of nationalist groups that are fanning the flames of anti-Cambodian sentiment.


The border dispute […]  has more to do with Thailand’s internal politics than any nation-to-nation dispute per se.


the conflict reveals a power struggle between the government and the PAD, the two main bastions of royalism in domestic Thai politics. The PAD is apparently manipulating the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia to undermine the Democrat-led government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.


Source: Thailand’s Rising Nationalism, Wall Street Journal


The Economist has published an article on the lèse-majesté laws of Thailand. It’s worth reading this article till the very end, particularly the last sentence.

Thailand And Cambodia

“2 Buddhist countries fight for ruined Hindu civilization temple / which highlights the idiocy of the situation” – tweets by @thaicam and @thaitvnews.

Of course it’s not really about the temple. There are plenty of temples that could be taken care of before this one.

People get killed and the heat goes up. Fighting three days in a row. The people switch their brain one gear down, our reptilian instincts wake up.

Such a convenient way to control what people are thinking about. And of course, such a convenient way to drum up support for a strong and well-equipped military, because in times where there is a threat of war, those who defend the motherland need all the support they can get.

We must now sort out our internal differences and unite as one against the real enemy. Them! Because they are the bad ones, right?


Are you with us or against us now, pal?

Southern Thailand – No End In Sight?

Pretty much every day you can read about new attacks and killings in Thailand’s troubled south.

It’s interesting that the military leaders in charge always seem to be very happy with the progress that is being made, and if you listen to them it sounds as if things are getting a lot better.

BANGKOK (Reuters) – A powerful blast that killed nine civilians and a brazen raid on a military base in Thailand’s troubled southern provinces show that a conflict that has killed 4,300 people in seven years is far from over.

Just as the government and the armed forces lauded the success of public relations campaigns and measures to undermine the rebel movement in the Muslim majority region, the shadowy militants struck back with the biggest and deadliest attacks in almost two years.

The renewed violence, while a setback for the government, is unlikely to damage its stability or the ruling Democrats’ popularity in the south ahead of possible elections this year.

The government and military are focussed on tackling security issues in Bangkok. Developments in its three restive provinces bordering Malaysia, 1,100 km (680 miles) south of the capital, have had little impact on nationwide public opinion.

Experts who follow the conflict in the south say the nature of two recent attacks suggest the insurgents are eager to discredit government claims of success and to force authorities towards a political solution.

A January 19 raid on an army outpost in Narathiwat province, a stronghold of the ethnic Malay rebels was well-planned and tactically sophisticated.

Four soldiers were killed, among them the unit commander, their living quarters set ablaze and about 50 weapons looted in an assault described by IHS-Jane’s security analyst Anthony Davis as what could be the “opening shots of a new and more militarily aggressive phase of conflict.”

“The attack on the base clearly demonstrated they wish to make a point,” Davis said.

“It wasn’t just a weapons raid, it sent a political message that the government shouldn’t underestimate them and they’re not going to put down their guns and walk away.”

Cease-fire ‘DOWNPLAYED’

Davis, a prominent researcher of the conflict, said the raid may have also been a response to the military failing to take seriously a unilateral month-long cease-fire declared by the insurgents last July in three districts in Narathiwat province.

The cease-fire aimed to dispel assertions that the rebel leaders did not have full control of fighters on the ground.

“It was clear the military tried to downplay this as much as possible. Those who organised this took great risks and they were slighted and made to feel they weren’t important,” he said.

It’s interesting to ask: how did downplaying the ceasefire help to better the situation? What possible benefit might have come from downplaying the situation? It’s not easy to come up with a good answer to that. And it begs the question: what is the army more concerned about? Looking good or solving the situation?

The decades-old separatist rebellion resurfaced in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces in 2004, with a new generation of militants thought to be leading the insurrection.

The region was a Malay Muslim sultanate before it was annexed by Buddhist Thailand in 1909 and separatist tension has simmered since and led to low-level conflict fought mainly in the jungles during the 1970s and 1980s. That changed in 2004 into a violent and well-organised ethno-nationalist struggle.

A security force of more than 60,000 has been deployed in the region since then, about 40,000 of them troops.

Srisomphob Jitphiromsri, a political scientist at Pattani’s Prince of Songkhla University, said the recent attacks showed the government may not have made as much progress as it might have thought, particularly in its public-relations drive.

The military has used development projects and a hearts-and-minds campaign to try to win support.

“The large troop presence may have led to a reduction in violence but there is still a negative attitude towards the security forces,” Srisomphob said.

“The militants still are very strong and have a solid grassroots structure. The claims of progress by the government was probably seen by the insurgents as a challenge to them.”

Source: Reuters

Bill Clinton in Bangkok Plays in “Hangover 2”

Okay, I admit it: I started to get annoyed after I read the 3958 announcement that Mel Gibson would do a cameo in Hangover 2, and then 8475 other announcements that he didn’t.

But now… Bill Clinton – the guy that did not inhale, and did not have a sexual relationship with that woman – happened to be in Bangkok and made a cameo appearance in the movie. Which is awesome of course, I do like the guy.

If there’s a way to invest in that movie, I’m in – they generate so much buzz already, if it’s going to be anything but a cashspitting blockbuster that are gonna put obscene amounts of money into the producers pockets, I’ll seriously be willing to consider my opinion about Abhisit.

He (Bill, not Mark – or actually Mark too) surely makes for a convincing actor…

Corruption Worse Now Than During Thaksin?

The Bangkok Post has published to articles on corruption in Thailand. One is called “They don’t even go red in the face” and the other “An existential horror”.

The latter is here:

Panthep Klanarong, president of the National Anti-Corruption Commission, spent about 20 minutes discussing the obstacles facing his office. He defended his office’s performance, saying that it has only the power to investigate and not to prosecute, and that he needs the help of other agencies and departments, and the people of Thailand, to combat corruption.

Apparently, one of the reasons corruption in Thailand is rampant and rarely checked is because not even the National Anti-Corruption Commission has the power to stop it.

Mohammad Jasin, vice-chair of Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), for approximately 10 minutes, explained his commission’s 100% conviction rate. His commission has the power to investigate and to prosecute, and even to take over cases from the police if need be.

Sixteen members of parliament have been convicted, 26 cases are still ongoing. Six ministers and others of ministerial level have been convicted. Twenty district mayors and heads. One governor of the central bank and four deputies. And a former chief of the national police.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the 14th International Anti-Corruption Conference, which finished in Bangkok yesterdayfrom Nov 10-14, it’s that perhaps Thailand needs to be more like Indonesia. This is not to say that Indonesia and KPK don’t have flaws, but it is to say that they are doing a lot better than we are.

The most popular, and most baffling, statistic last week was the 76.1% of Thais who believe that corruption is OK, as long as the country prospers. They were surveyed by Abac Poll.

That means that of the Thai population of 63.7 million, 76.1% of the people do not realise that such an attitude can only help corruption to prosper, not the country; 76.1% of the country who do not understand that because of such an attitude, the country can never prosper.

If this poll tells us anything, it’s that the stark horror of our collective misguided existence is a genuine metaphorical reflection of the brainless, soulless and clueless zombies in a classic George Romero horror film.

Perhaps the 76.1% simply feel defeated. How can they not? Just go back to the first paragraph of this column. Talk about deflating, eh?

Not only that. To address this disconcerting find, the prime minister’s spokesperson, Thepthai Senpong, announced that the government will ask the Ministry of Culture to combat such attitudes head-on by building a new culture, creating a new consciousness for the Thai people, one that would not condone corruption.

Excuse me?

Re-engineering the mindset of the entire country? It’s not that I disagree, but would it not be more practical for the honourable spokesperson to just advise the prime minister to sack one or two of his corrupt ministers?

To at least make a credible stance on the Constitution Court’s video-clip crisis?

To mandate the National Anti-Corruption Commission with actual, real power to combat corruption?

You know, to set an example for the people of Thailand? Call me crazy, but hey, I’m full of wacky ideas.

No wonder 76.1% believes corruption is OK. What else can you do?

Mr Jasin showed the conference a picture of televised court proceedings. Yes, the entire country gets to watch the court doing its job. How’s that for transparency?

In Thailand? We have to smuggle video clips.

Mr Jasin also spoke of how ”dark forces” are trying to limit the power of, or even do away with the KPK. On learning of this, the people of Indonesia took to the streets in droves in support of the KPK.

Why? Because the KPK has set an example, has given them hope, has shown it can be done, and so the people stood up.

This is not to say Indonesia and the KPK don’t have their flaws. The KPK is still quite limited in its powers, and is no stranger to controversy itself. But it sure is doing a lot better than Thailand and the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

The Abac survey compares Thais’ attitudes toward corruption from before the 2006 military coup and the present day. And here’s the stinker _ 90.1% believe that there’s been an increase in corruption with the present government. Four years ago, 84.9% believed there was an increase in corruption under the Thaksin government.

There you go, according to the Abac survey conducted in 17 provinces, the Abhisit government is believed to have a higher rate of corruption than the Thaksin government. To be fair, surveys are not a perfect science, but they do tell you something.

But here is the bigger stinker: The supposed purpose of the 2006 coup was to counter corruption. After the coup, four years later, Thais perceive Thailand as having a higher rate of corruption. Seriously?

If this poll tells us something else, it’s that the stark horror of my beloved Kingdom’s absurd existence is real life imitating an episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone.

At the International Anti-Corruption Conference, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva spoke of his latest efforts to combat corruption _ the signing of an agreement with 27 leading Thai businesses in an alliance against corruption.

Putting pen to paper is all well and good. As a writer, I’m all for the belief that the pen is mightier than the sword. But as a practical, thinking human being, I also understand that there are times when we need to unsheath the sword.

Perhaps we could, like Indonesia, empower a real, actual mandate to smite corruption.

Put away the blustering and posturing. Bring out the sword. Make sure it’s sharp.

And wield it justly.

Parkour Running Movie in Bangkok

Just saw this trailer about a movie called “Shanty Town Show Down” shot in Bangkok that is about… um, I guess there really isn’t a story, but if you can do parkour running like these guys do, you don’t really need a story to entertain.

Corrupt Ministers

Two ministers of cabinet have been guilty of owning shares in companies that receive state concessions – which is forbidden by the constitution, since it causes a conflict of interest. If you own shares in a company, it’s only logical that you are inclined to assign them big jobs.

Yet, the two ministers refuse to step down, claiming that they are not legally required to quit. And there’s a good likelihood that they’ll get away with it.