Samak Fights On, Proposes Referendum, Sondhi Still Wanted by Police for Treason


Well, it seems that reports of PM Samak Sundaravej’s political demise have been somewhat exaggerated. Breathless newspaper reports from the right wing press this morning (that’s, in fact, pretty much all of them) suggested Khun Samak was totally isolated and under extreme pressure and was sure to resign at the speech to be given to the media planned for this morning.

As it turned out, in what is described as a ‘rambling’ speech (I was teaching and did not hear it), Khun Samak surprised many (and delighted many more) by announcing that he was not throwing in the towel just yet. The Stock Exchange bounced on the news and faith was restored in human nature to some extent – it had been buttressed by further reports that the vast majority of the labour union movement had rejected the disgraceful, self-serving call by a tiny minority of union leadership for a strike in favour of the armed right-wing PAD thugs currently illegally occupying the government compound. Of course, it is difficult to know exactly how many supported the thugs because many of those involved would have taken a sick day off rather than officially gone on strike – laws against labour disputes are still shamefully fierce in Thailand and no national strike has ever been managed – this is a subject to which I may return subsequently.

The government is also proposing a referendum to sort out the political future – it will ask (there is some confusion about exactly how many questions will be asked and what they will be) whether or not the government should step down. Opinion polls fairly strongly suggest that the majority of Thais, even in Bangkok, prefer democracy to the authoritarian patronage system that the right wing PAD thugs are determined to bring about. Will it do any good? The PAD thugs have already made it clear that they do not accept the right of the poor to vote so why will they accept the referendum when it shows the majority of the people do not support them? Or is this a way for the government to return the onus on maintaining public order and the rule of law to the army – under the emergency decree, the army (which has been permitted to retain the bloated budget it awarded itself during the disastrous 2006-7 junta rule) should have taken action to disperse the armed right wing PAD thugs and arrested its leaders on outstanding arrest warrants for treason and other crimes against the state.

Cheap Russian Diesel? Nyet!


No sooner did PM Samak Sundaravej announce his plan to import diesel from Russia at eight baht per litre cheaper than normal than people have been running around to say how impossible this would be. The high transportation costs, they cry, the high sulphur content, they opine, the limited refining capacity, they etc and so forth. Well, we will see if it occurs – meanwhile, later today, the Finance Minister Surapong Suebwonglee is due to announce an economic stimulus package of around 40 billion baht which is expected to reduce excise taxes on (some types of) petrol, bus fares, electricity and a variety of other things. There is certainly a need for strong governmental leadership at this time, since consumer confidence is low and the SET index is dipping dramatically. The ability of the government to do this is being significantly damaged by the dangerous antics of the anti-democracy mob PAD and its supporters in the so-called Democrat Party.

The international credit crisis is contributing to the economic problems brought about by high oil and food prices, which have led to the highest rate of inflation in a decade and the threat of stagflation. The Governor of the Bank of Thailand Tarisa Watanagase has said the bank has not invested in securities issued by either of the two large American mortgage providers (‘Fannie Mae’ and ‘Freddie Mac’), only in US Government bonds. However, there appears to remain a problem of excess liquidity in the Thai (and the region’s) money markets. Money from commercial banks is being placed increasingly in government bonds and in short-term money market deals and this, the governor said, increases the risk of capital flow volatility – i.e. all the money could swiftly disappear overseas if better opportunities suddenly emerge and in any case the Thai economy is subject to what economists call ‘distortions’ because of this volatility.

Perhaps it is not surprising that drug use is on the increase.  

Optimistic? Try the Best You Can


PM Samak Sundaravej has seen off the latest no confidence debate nonsense from the Democrats and strong support from coalition members demonstrated the continuing viability of the democratically elected government. Democrat and anti-democracy mob PAD attempts to stir up nationalist sentiment (with the threat of violence) in the case of the Preah Vihear temple have so far failed as the Cambodian government is maintaining a cool stance (there is more background here and, indeed, all over the web now). The junta-appointed Asset Scrutiny Committee is being wrapped up today – in what certainly seems to be failure as they have achieved nothing of any note. Despite smug claims from Chair Nim Yimyaem that the Committee should receive ‘8 out of 10,’ it is clear that the charge laid by the junta on the committee to legitimise the military coup by finding meaningful evidence against the democratically-elected Thai Rak Thai administration led by Thaksin Shinawatra. The committee has lodged four more nuisance cases but these are fluff and will obviously disappear.

Perhaps there is a measure of resurgent confidence in the meeting of PM Samak and Khun Thaksin in public at a wedding over the weekend. The former PM did observe last week that there will be a change in the stars about now and that things will improve thereafter.

Presumably the anti-democracy mob will continue with its demonstrations but for how much longer without escalating their protests into violence? Some (transparently false) stories continue to appear in the papers juxtaposing the supposedly peaceful PAD people with ‘sinister young men’ who are government supporters but people surely can see through this by now? The courts of course – well, let us say that there is an opportunity for reform there, as there is now with the Upper House. But let us be optimistic for a moment at the beginning of another week.  

If It’s Friday, It Must Be Time for Another Attempt to Overthrow Democracy


The weekend approaches and, in Bangkok, that means new confrontations between the forces of law and order and the anti-democracy mob. At the time of writing, PAD (ringleaders of the anti-democracy movement) are converging on government house which, depending on which report is believed, they intend to mount a demonstration or will storm the building to bring down the democratically-elected government by force. The police are put into the position of trying to maintain order in the face of enormous provocation by the anti-democracy mob and by the agents provocateurs who stage violent acts while helpfully wearing clothes that identify them as ‘pro-government supporters.’

All schools in the area have been closed for the day and the police are preparing for the worst. The mob threaten to throw the democratically-elected prime minister Samak Sundaravej out of office, presumably to replace them with some unelected dictator, since the mob has no interest in calling for new elections. The government has a difficult path to tread because during the recent disastrous military junta period, the deeply sinister ISOC mechanism was put in place which gives the military (and certain other persons acting behind the scenes) enormous power to declare a national emergency and take over completely. If the level of violence increases to some undefined level, elements within the army will (or might, anyway) declare martial law and take over the government again.

What motivates the PAD? Why would people prefer a military tyranny to the rule of law and democracy? There is a level of hatred against the current government and, in particular, ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra which is on an entirely irrational level. Otherwise reasonable people (academic Khun Thitinan from Thammasat University who writes a column for the Bangkok Post, for example) make endless rants about corruption and criminality supposedly committed by Khun Thaksin’s government – electorally, the most popular and successful government Thailand has ever seen by a wide margin. Khun Thitinan, in common with many others, has never presented any evidence for his beliefs and as the nonsense court cases brought against Khun Thaksin demonstrate, the secret powers directing the PAD are desperate for any kind of ‘evidence.’

The answer: class hatred.

If It’s Friday, It Must Be Time for Another Attempt to Overthrow Democracy


The weekend approaches and, in Bangkok, that means new confrontations between the forces of law and order and the anti-democracy mob. At the time of writing, PAD (ringleaders of the anti-democracy movement) are converging on government house which, depending on which report is believed, they intend to mount a demonstration or will storm the building to bring down the democratically-elected government by force. The police are put into the position of trying to maintain order in the face of enormous provocation by the anti-democracy mob and by the agents provocateurs who stage violent acts while helpfully wearing clothes that identify them as ‘pro-government supporters.’

All schools in the area have been closed for the day and the police are preparing for the worst. The mob threaten to throw the democratically-elected prime minister Samak Sundaravej out of office, presumably to replace them with some unelected dictator, since the mob has no interest in calling for new elections. The government has a difficult path to tread because during the recent disastrous military junta period, the deeply sinister ISOC mechanism was put in place which gives the military (and certain other persons acting behind the scenes) enormous power to declare a national emergency and take over completely. If the level of violence increases to some undefined level, elements within the army will (or might, anyway) declare martial law and take over the government again.

What motivates the PAD? Why would people prefer a military tyranny to the rule of law and democracy? There is a level of hatred against the current government and, in particular, ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra which is on an entirely irrational level. Otherwise reasonable people (academic Khun Thitinan from Thammasat University who writes a column for the Bangkok Post, for example) make endless rants about corruption and criminality supposedly committed by Khun Thaksin’s government – electorally, the most popular and successful government Thailand has ever seen by a wide margin. Khun Thitinan, in common with many others, has never presented any evidence for his beliefs and as the nonsense court cases brought against Khun Thaksin demonstrate, the secret powers directing the PAD are desperate for any kind of ‘evidence.’

The answer: class hatred.

Who Benefits from Attacks on Democracy?


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?

No Coup This Weekend At Least


Well, we survived the weekend without another military coup but it was touch and go for a while. The problem continues to be the anti-democracy mob which wrongly calls itself the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). This group, which receives enormous support from the media, is holding the country to ransom. The group is led by convicted criminal Sondhi Limthongkul, who openly advocates removing the vote from the poor.

Bangkok witnesses plenty of protests and demonstrations throughout the year and life continues but this one is different – not because the mob is baying for democratically elected Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to resign but because certain people behind the scenes are using the mob to create tension and perhaps violence to provide a pretext for the military to step in again. The PM was (as is often the case) a little intemperate over the weekend and these remarks are being taken as a reason for intensifying demonstrations. So far, cool heads are prevailing and the mob is being left to sit in the rain for a while.

If ABACpoll is to be believed (and based on its track record that is a big ‘if’), the majority of residents believe not just that the situation will get worse. Also, 94% of people want peace to prevail in the country – who are these 6% people who do not want peace? What kind of a question is that anyway? Do you want peace to prevail in the country? No thanks, I’d rather there were violence and misery on a daily basis.

 

Khun Somchai Madeupname writes: Well, John, you work for Shinawatra University and Khun Thaksin pays your wages. Why should we believe anything you say?

Reply: well, Khun Somchai, I certainly do work for Shinawatra University but I have never had any interference with anything I want to say or to write – on the other hand, this is Thailand and everyone who works here has to practice a fair amount of self-censorship. I will certainly write what I think as much as I can but, from time to time, topics arise which it would be potentially dangerous to write about honestly and, in those cases, I will remain silent.