Thaksin Gets Global Media Attention


Thaksin’s back in the media spotlight this week. Here just a couple of recent articles on him and interviews with him:

 

Thaksin Meeting Nelson Mandela?


There has been a lot of speculation about the authenticity of photos showing ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra meeting Nelson Mandela. Interestingly, none of the Thai media outlets did the smallest bit of research and instead jumped right into the speculation. It was Saksith Saiyasombut who simply contacted the office of Nelson Mandela to check out whether a meeting took place or not.

The answer is: they did meet. (See the details and full story here – although it still isn’t clear whether the pictures are real or fake).

BkkGreg put it best:

The irony of Thaksin meeting a guy who did 27 years in jail just to prove he was stronger than his enemies is making my head hurt.

Red Is Not Yellow


The coalition put together by Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai party prior to its electoral landslide in 2001 was one of the widest and most diverse ever seen in Thai politics. It included many of the elements of Thai society that had until then largely been excluded from power or representation in government. Hence, the rural poor and the trades unions found themselves shoulder to shoulder with the ethnic Chinese business class and the non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Notwithstanding the enormous electoral success achieved and the prosperous economy, it was inevitable that some of the contradictions within the coalition would lead to conflict. Hence, the pro-globalisation sections clashed with the labour leaders concerned with protecting local jobs and with privatization; meanwhile, the many interests represented by the NGOs could not always be met since they were often contradictory and, perhaps more importantly, could not be fixed within the short timescale focus of Thai politics. Consequently, some sections fell away from the initial coalition (it is not surprising but it is disappointing that it is representatives of some of the sections that fell away that became prominent leaders in the violent anti-democracy PAD movement).

That movement paved the way for the military intervention in 2006, the various court decisions that followed and the ushering in of the right wing collaborationist Democrat government. Now, the red-shirted pro-democracy protestors who are widely but wrongly described in the media as pro-Thaksin supporters, are surrounding Government House. The red shirts represent a variety of different groups, just like the original coalition did and many sections are antithetical to each other. Apparently, on Saturday, a group of protestors in Chiang Mai prevented a pro-gay parade taking place (although the presence of military agent provocateurs cannot be eliminated), even using violence according to some reports. This is not just a bad thing in itself but is counter-productive in bringing about the aims of the pro-democracy movement and also provides a pretext for military services to act against them (assuming, of course, that they are not already doing so). It also enables the media to make easy moral equivalence statements about the red shirts and the repellent PAD movement. Further, there is even some chance of PAD leaders being arrested for their (alleged) crimes – and that might include the current Foreign Minister, who was a prominent supporter of the illegal seizure of the two international airports last December. This process might be imperiled as a result.

Let us hope that violence is avoided tonight and in the future demonstrations.

And what is Thaksin doing meanwhile?


+ + + another post from R, not John + + +

As protests against Thaksin’s proxy government in Thailand escalate, Thaksin himself is displaying calm confidence.

In a recent interview with ArabianBusiness.com he talked about how his visa being revoked in Britain affected him:

“Do you know how many countries there are in the world? There are 197. And only 17 have an extradition treaty with Thailand,” he notes with a thin smile. “Better still, only 10 of those treaties are active. So, don’t you worry about me, I still have many places to stay.”

So, while he might have “lost face” there for a moment, that’s pretty much the only triumph his enemies get out of this.

However, you can sense that it caused Thaksin some headaches:

“I think the UK is a mature democratic country, and they should understand that I am the victim of the coup d’etat,” he maintains. “I am the victim of dictatorship, even though there was a court verdict.

The fact the he announced his return to politics didn’t really come as a surprise. However, he also talks about some other goals he has:

Shinawatra reveals he intends to make a comeback in politics, tackle global poverty, reorganise the Middle East’s healthcare system – and while he’s at it, establish a sizeable foundation to look after Asians hit by the financial crisis.

[…]

Putting his political problems aside, Shinawatra is focused on tackling poverty in Asia. He speaks passionately about the plight of the poor, and details the measures he took during his reign in Thailand – and how they worked.

Then, he get’s questioned on whether he wants to introduce new healthcare methods in the United Arab Emirates to, and his answer is:

“I think if I can re-manage for the UAE government, I will do exactly the same. I will bring in the same experts who used to work with me. I will not just give treatment but also preventive measures – for example, there is a lot that can be done with nutrition and other advice on healthy living.”

Why he decided to return to politics, inspite of his previous announcements that he had left politics forever?

“I have no choice,” he insists. “In the beginning after I was ousted, my wife asked me not to go back to politics. She didn’t like politics, and the whole family went through a lot of hardship so I didn’t go back.

“But now I have been cornered because the country is going down deeply,” he continues. “The confidence is not there; the trust among the foreign community is not there; the poor people in rural areas are in difficulty.

With me at the helm I can bring confidence quickly back to Thailand, and that is why we have to find a mechanism under which I can go back into politics.”

What does Thaksin say about the general situation in Thailand currently (not particularly about the besieged airports & government house)?

“The coup is still there – it has been transformed from a military coup to a judicial coup,” he explains. “I think a lot depends on the power of the people – if they feel they are in hardship and they need me to help them, I will go back.

Now, PAD leaders regularly “accuse” Thaksin of his brilliant marketing to the rural poor that made him win the election.

I guess this interview will just be another prove of his “evil image campaigning”, this time directed at the international community. Obviously, the PAD does not resort to evil PR tactics and not “compromise on the truth”, because if you look around at what other nations, business leaders and NGOs think of the PADs current protests, you will have to look very hard and long to find even one that is not condemning them. And if you’re being condoned by basically everyone, that must be evidence that you are speaking the truth… right? left? up? down?

But then – as the ASTV station put it – the EU and the USA of course don’t count, because they “accepted Thaksin’s money”. The PAD leaders of course would *NEVER* accept Thaksin’s dirty money… never, ever. That’s why they are trying to freeze his assets… If they’d get a hold of his money, they’d probably give it to the rural poor, or maybe burn it, so nobody get’s infected by evil money…

The Truth behind the PPP’s Populist Policies


The PPP-led coalition government has proved itself to be true to its principles by carrying through another round of funding to 900 villages throughout the Kingdom. 900 million baht has been spent in this round and more will follow for the remaining 700 eligible villages in due course.

Investing in local communities follows the policies established by the Thai Rak Thai government of 2001-6, under PM Thaksin Shinawatra, which was ended by a military coup and a subsequent period of disastrous junta rule. The pro-poor policy was supplemented by the establishment of government agencies to promote small and medium-sized enterprises and the OTOP program, which provided marketing and distribution help for local communities to produce traditional products without moving from their homes. For decades, people have left their homes and moved to Bangkok and other cities in order to find better paying jobs. This has led to the creation of slums in the cities, pressure on public services (sewage and health, among others), depression of wages for everyone and social problems resulting from the break-up of families – imagine what can happen if married couples are split for lengthy periods with one away for work. All of these things represented serious societal problems which had not previously been seriously addressed by any government before Thai Rak Thai.

A further problem was also emerging with the signing of Free Trade Agreements with other countries – these agreements, like all capitalist events, lead to winners and losers. The losers are mostly those who are less well-educated, older and in rural communities whose previous production patterns have been affected by the arrival of cheaper competition from overseas. The signing of the agreement with China, for example, has put a lot of northern Thai garlic and onion farmers out of business. The government, pushing forward with agreements, needed to put in place some measures in order to help out these people across the country.

The success of these policies in electoral terms has been obvious and they now represent the mainstream of Thai political discourse – in economic terms, it is still being determined if this is the best way for policies to be implemented.

The Truth behind the PPP’s Populist Policies


The PPP-led coalition government has proved itself to be true to its principles by carrying through another round of funding to 900 villages throughout the Kingdom. 900 million baht has been spent in this round and more will follow for the remaining 700 eligible villages in due course.

Investing in local communities follows the policies established by the Thai Rak Thai government of 2001-6, under PM Thaksin Shinawatra, which was ended by a military coup and a subsequent period of disastrous junta rule. The pro-poor policy was supplemented by the establishment of government agencies to promote small and medium-sized enterprises and the OTOP program, which provided marketing and distribution help for local communities to produce traditional products without moving from their homes. For decades, people have left their homes and moved to Bangkok and other cities in order to find better paying jobs. This has led to the creation of slums in the cities, pressure on public services (sewage and health, among others), depression of wages for everyone and social problems resulting from the break-up of families – imagine what can happen if married couples are split for lengthy periods with one away for work. All of these things represented serious societal problems which had not previously been seriously addressed by any government before Thai Rak Thai.

A further problem was also emerging with the signing of Free Trade Agreements with other countries – these agreements, like all capitalist events, lead to winners and losers. The losers are mostly those who are less well-educated, older and in rural communities whose previous production patterns have been affected by the arrival of cheaper competition from overseas. The signing of the agreement with China, for example, has put a lot of northern Thai garlic and onion farmers out of business. The government, pushing forward with agreements, needed to put in place some measures in order to help out these people across the country.

The success of these policies in electoral terms has been obvious and they now represent the mainstream of Thai political discourse – in economic terms, it is still being determined if this is the best way for policies to be implemented.

Yala Murders; Hmong Repatriations; Lottery Arguments


Three people have been shot dead and five more wounded when terrorists opened fire on a tea-house in Yala. M-16 and AK-47 rifles were apparently used in the shooting, undertaken by two men on the back of a pick-up truck. More than 3,000 people have now been killed in the insurgency since weapons were stolen from an army base in 2004. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has blamed the army for blocking an enquiry into the death of Imam Yapa Koseng. So many people have been killed, according to the Rights group, that there should be some strong evidence in some cases at least and this would be an opportunity for the army leadership to show its good faith. It has, consequently, failed to do so. The army launched a military coup in 2006 and many people have been killed and disappeared over the years without prosecutions being brought.

215 Hmong people will be repatriated to Laos on a more or less voluntary basis. UN observers seem to have found the treatment provided by Thai authorities acceptable, although the Hmong did burn down their own shelters the other day in a protest against their treatment. Many of the Hmong fear (with some justification) persecution by the Pathet Lao government for having fought on the side of the US in the Second Indochinese War (as we are going to call the Vietnam War here).

More controversy about the lottery: hundreds of ticket vendors have been protesting in front of the Finance Ministry concerning new arrangements and Minister Surapong Suebwonglee has promised to look into it all again. The vendors make their money as intermediaries in the sale of tickets, wandering from place to place with the wooden folders of tickets around their necks. People buy two tickets for 100 baht, when their actual cost is 80 baht but pay the extra because the vendors come to them and because they can choose the numbers they like. It was a previous attempt to regulate the lottery properly that has been used as one of the nuisance charges brought by the junta-appointed Asset Scrutiny Committee to try to persecute democratically-re-elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

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.