Suranand Vejjajiva wrote an op-ed in which he pointed out that some of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s moves regarding our relationship with Cambodia might not have been the best choices.
Are we willing to throw some 30 years of relationship building with a neighbouring country like Cambodia down the drain just to catch one man? And that is just in modern times. For centuries, Thai and Khmer culture has been closely related and share many heritages. Local communities around the border areas speak the same language. Border demarcation lines are imaginary to them as they cross daily to trade and mingle.
He also criticized the recall of Thailand’s ambassador from Cambodia last year, and points out the negative effects this now has.
The price paid is that it closed down high level communications channel and valuable insights and intelligence. Diplomacy has been left to politicians and the military, creating a weakness in our strategic positioning on wide ranging issues including trade and investment. All of which constitute building blocks of a peaceful coexistence and leverage in times of need.
He concludes by writing:
It is the same for us Thais as the actual use of force will lead the country down a troubled road and a “lose-lose” situation for both sides.
Wealth, however, can be created and shared though cooperation and friendship. If viewed in this aspect, the government has to start picking up the pieces of building blocks it has disregarded and work towards rebuilding the damaged relationship. Only as friends can fights be avoided.
Anecdote is not evidence, of course, but Suvarnabhumi Airport seemed almost empty last night. Normally, the first of the three entries into the immigration section is crowded with farangs and the smart traveller (or me, whatever) sneaks off to the next entrance, where there are generally much fewer people. However, last night it was not necessary as there were vacant immigration people sitting around with nothing to do. The traffic was very light too. There was a report last week that tourist arrivals were 30% down on normal because of the PAD mob action. It takes the Tourism Authority a few months to collate figures and then naturally they will not publish them straight away – I imagine they will be concerned that they will miss their targets.
One thing that the light traffic does make clear is how many billboards there are on the streets advertising candidates for the Bangkok governor election. There has been very little about this in the English language press – perhaps there is more in the Thai language media but it seems very low key. There seem to be three main candidates, based on the advertising. The first is incumbent Apirak Kosayodhin, who is the Democrat candidate and who, based on his performance so far, is best described as ‘rarely seen.’ I am not sure what he offers apart from more of the same (i.e. very little) and the Democrats of course these days seem to have no policies or ideology at all, thanks to leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, who would have been forced to resign in just about any other country in the world based on his disastrous electoral record.
The second candidate is Chuwit the massage parlour baron – former baron, presumably. His pictures show him furiously (he is always shown as furious about something or other) searching for something, sometimes on the back of a motor bike taxi with the aid of binoculars. I assume this refers to his desire to search for and root out corruption wherever it might be found. He promised the same thing if he were elected to parliament but the torrent of tales he was going to tell about the rich and powerful somehow was stoppered at the source. Perhaps it was because revealing these secrets would compromise his own position and not just an act of flagrant hypocrisy.
A third candidate, number one as I recall (the two above were five and eight – they are numbered to make it easier for people to vote, especially those who cannot read well) offers ‘t-zone for teens.’ It is not clear to me what that is or why anyone would vote for it but there you are. No doubt he means well.
As I recall, the TV personality and occasional Bangkok Post columnist Nattakorn (what was his surname?) was going to run as a kind of underground candidate, relying largely on internet campaigning. Since he was the most acute Thai columnist by quite some distance, it is to be hoped that he loses and returns to his writing and broadcasting.
The election is due on October 5th. Let us see if more information emerges in the meantime.
Armed right wing thugs continue to occupy the seat of government. One court issued arrest warrants against the leaders of the thugs for treason (they call themselves PAD and are an anti-democracy movement). The leaders, who were very vocal about their loyalty to the law, how other people escaped punishment etc, suddenly changed their tune and began skulking like the shameless cowards they are behind human shields – the ‘useful idiots’ who are happy to eat someone else’s food to be part of a protest.
The police moved in to disperse the illegal mob action and then the action becomes confused – well, perhaps it is just the inadequate Thai press who cannot or will not tell the real story. There were reports issued by the armed right wing thugs, brandishing expensive golf clubs, of ‘police brutality’ which seem underwhelming – but sufficient for another court (and we have seen what has happened in the courts recently) to rescind the arrest warrants and allow the mob to continue its illegal and dangerous occupation of the government.
Then there was the use of tear gas – the right wing thugs blamed the police for using tear gas and the police have strongly denied using it. There is talk of a ‘third hand’ which may or may not have used the gas. It is not clear. We can have a pretty good guess of what is going on but you would never know that from the rabidly anti-government press.
What is perhaps most depressing about the whole thing is the betrayal of democratic principles by people who should know better. It is not surprising that criminal mob leaders can shark up a group of armed thugs – such things could happen everywhere. It is not surprising that the disgraced quisling leader of the opposition should support the mob – we all know what kind of a person Abhisit Vejjajiva is and how totally unfit he would be for any kind of public office. It is not surprising that the group of junta cronies stuffed into the senate come out to support the mob – that is what the junta told them to do and why they receive their many allowances.
But when academics support armed thugs trying to bring down the government, that is a betrayal. And worst of all, when labour leaders order strikes to support right wing thugs, that is the most horrible betrayal of all. So many labour and union leaders have been murdered by the right wing thugs over the years, so many have been tortured and beaten, so many have lost their lives in wholly avoidable industrial ‘accidents’ covered up by the right wing mob that it beggars belief that today’s leaders would support the thugs. Few people come out of this well.
In a shameful show of opportunism, workshy quisling Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the Democrat Party, is calling for a no confidence motion in parliament. Abhisit, who has done nothing to articulate any coherent set of policies or ideology for his once proud party, is best known for his extraordinary privileged background and his decision not to contest the 2006 election. Knowing how few people would vote for his incoherent, disorganized party, Abhisit decided to boycott the election and made some obviously false excuses about the power of the elected government and how it was all terribly unfair for people like him. This extraordinary show of his sense of entitlement opened the way for the military coup later in the year.
Now Abhisit has joined with the movement trying to stir up the idea that the country is facing political and economic crisis so as to create the conditions for another coup – or so at least it seems. The Democrat Party had wanted the government to open a general debate in which it could bring a list of complaints about government performance, without of course any suggestion of what should be done. Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej quite rightly rejected this since there is a real need for government to continue to work its way through a number of vital issues – the government is struggling to deal with complex issues that look to be beyond its capability anyway. It has been in office for just four months and has also had to deal with the legacy of the disastrous junta government. It is not necessary to be a fan of democratically elected prime minister Samak to realise that the opposition Democrats may have some unspoken agenda and means of achieving it.
Irrespective of the success of the Opposition forcing a censure motion on the PM and various members of the Cabinet, the Upper House is also set to hold some kind of session assessing government performance. The Senate is now stuffed full of junta cronies and other right wing interests as a result of the new constitution forced through by the junta under conditions of martial law.
Who benefits from the continued period of instability?
Cool heads from those in authority will be needed over the next few days if the current drama is not to escalate into a real crisis – especially since there are so many people who want to provoke such a crisis.
The main problem is the high oil price, which is hurting a lot of people. Price increases have been approved or will be approved for boat taxis, taxis and buses, while Thai Airways has announced more fuel surcharges. Truckers are striking and as many as 120,000 trucks may be standing idle. Farmers are protesting in different parts of the country because of the difficulties they face. In the north, farmers have blockaded roads in Mae Hong Son with a view to persuading government to guarantee a 25 baht per kilogram purchase price for their garlic. Other protests and demonstrations are planned around the country.
That in itself is not a serious political problem – these are difficult times and people want to make their circumstances known in the public sphere, which is possible under democracy of course. The government will no doubt do what it can in response to the protests – some more help for farmers, for example, possibly subsidizing some fuel prices and so on. It cannot do much to control world oil prices.
The problem comes when trouble-makers try to use these demonstration as evidence there is some terrible political crisis and that the army must step in to restore public order and confidence. Spoilt brat anti-democracy activists are still holding up honest people from going to work in Bangkok and there is a danger that workshy quisling Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader (why? What does he not have to do to get sacked?) of the opposition Democrats will again join in by using parliament to try to prove that normal politics is impossible.
Will this become sufficient of a pretext for elements in the military once again to take to the streets and seize power? That possibility will increase substantially if there is violence – people in Thailand tend to be quite naïve with respect to the media and believe what they are led to believe. Violence will only serve the interest of the anti-democracy faction – if it should occur, consider who benefits and who, therefore, has really caused it. People will take money to do just about anything, here as elsewhere.