11 July 2024

February 28, 2021: Cabinet members and top health officials lined up to receive the newly-arrived COVID-19 vaccines today to help underline the Prayut administration’s key message: Look. It’s safe.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s postponed vaccination must have sowed some seeds of doubt, although technicality was cited as the reason. This is because wherever vaccines go and whoever makes them, they are always accompanied by rumours or doubts. National leaders often have to be the first to bear their arms to increase public confidence.

The need for confidence is more so in Thailand, where coronavirus vaccines are still going through serious politicisation. The government, having face a barrage of vaccine-related questions during the recent no-confidence debate, stand to have to answer some more in the days to come, most likely who are getting it and who are not getting it. What the government needs to do now is get the safety issue out of the way first.

February 27, 2021: Police are the watershed of social injustice in Thailand, and this shall not be confused with “political injustice” which is debatable and divisive, according to an opinion poll.

A very large majority of 1,782 Thais surveyed by Super Poll over the past few days (93.5%) identified narcotic drugs, illegal gambling, unlawful labour and human trafficking as the country’s main problems that senior Thai police have a hand in.

Even a bigger majority, 96.1%, said they believed the police in general were responsible along with related state officials in creating injustice for society like the slow process when cases involved the influential or wealthy people and vice versa when poor defendants are involved.

The biggest majority, 99.4%, said the “most glaring” problems concerning the Thai police include drugs in slums, human trafficking, illegal foreign labour, underground gambling and improper or dirty transfers influenced by bribes or nepotism.

February 26, 2021: Nearly half a million people are still infected everyday; countries originating vaccines are still reeling with high infection rates despite better transport and storage logistics than the rest of the word; there are good chances that COVID-19 variants are already adapting to hostile medical innovations; and other questions still hang over hastily-developed drugs to fight the coronavirus.

Those are among key reasons why people should not let their “guards” down and governments must not ease lockdowns too early, international and local scientists have warned.

Dr Thira Woratanarat of the Chulalongkorn University, an expert on pandemic prevention whose opinions on COVID-19 have been respected and much followed locally, has stressed a warning that a rush to re-welcome tourists to jump start the economy could be a very bad idea.

One main question, according to Thira, is whether what is residing harmlessly inside vaccine recipients can jump out and wreak havoc. This question is glaring particularly because of the fact that the world is very far from being entirely vaccinated.

He said no country has had sufficient coverage of vaccination among the population. Even Israel that tops the enviable coverage list remains a far cry from total protection.

With the first jabs in Thailand just days away, Thira said on his Facebook that many people were smiling, probably too much and too soon. He warned that the smiles must not be accompanied by the lowering of the guards.

February 25, 2021: Both sides in the political divide have been thrown into disarray following court rulings against key persons in the massive protests on the last days of the Yingluck government which was eventually ousted in a military coup led by Prayut Chan-o-cha.

The Prayut government obviously needs to reshuffle the Cabinet, as some ministers were found “guilty” of the protests that obstructed administrative work and an election. Numbers in Parliament were also in jeopardy.

The opposition and anti-establishment movement are not legally and numerically affected, but, to them, political ramifications of the court rulings can be profound. People in this side facing current or future court cases will hold their breath even more and “injustice” rallying cries will lose much local and international impact.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban was sentenced to five years in jail. Other key members also received imprisonment sentences or handed suspended jail sentences. Their action, the court said, was a forceful act against a functioning government, involved invasion of properties that were not theirs, constituted illegal gatherings and disrupted an election.

It can be a monumental moment in divisive Thai politics.

February 24, 2021: Exiled Thaksin Shinawatra has learned somewhat the hard way that, with Clubhouse and young, extreme Thai activists, ones shall not beat around the bush.

His invited Clubhouse talk a few days ago had been excitedly promoted and drew a big number of “listeners”, but when it came to the issue of the hour, Article 112, Thaksin virtually chose to stay away from the controversy. That displeases a lot of people who wanted him to speak out, using the perceived liberty provided by the exclusivity of the “rooms”.

Many later went online to voice criticism against Thaksin, and this has amplified the perception that the Pheu Thai Party, of which he is the de facto patriarch, is not as bold as the Move Forward Party on sensitive matters.

The talk was focused on Thaksin’s “successes” as prime minister as well as what he would do regarding COVID-19. His comments were expected, which made his unspoken stand on Article 112 even more glaring.

February 23, 2021: One of the most viewed and most shared online content regarding the embattled anti-establishment movement at present has to do with how much money key leaders have in their bank accounts.

Several factors explain interest from supporters and rivals alike: The movement has been operating on claims that “Everyone is the leader”, therefore protests “belong to no-one”, in other words nobody has been pulling the strings financially and funding has come from innocent donors only; allegations of embezzlement have hounded some key members and top “guards”; suspicion concerning unexpected wealth of certain figures in the movement, with millions of baht allegedly in accounts of those who are not supposed to have that much money, has been cited as a reason for its current struggles; and if accusations are not true, “discredit” conspiracies can become a big rallying cry.

Even how a certain protest leader is dressed has been heavily scrutinised.

A former high-ranking official of the National Intelligence Agency has asked key leaders of the movement to come clean on what they currently have in their accounts before it’s too late. “There are unbelievable rumours going around at the moment and it’s up to those affected to clear themselves, or people will really start believing it,” wrote Nanthiwat Samart, former deputy NIA leader.

February 22, 2021: Donald Trump is not going quietly into the night, according to an opinion poll conducted following his controversial impeachment hearing which has left a lot of his supporters seething.

It was a survey of around 1,000 Trump supporters, or Republican voters to be exact. Findings should bother the Republican Party as much as the Democratic Party, as nearly 46% of those surveyed said they would abandon the GOP and join a Trump Party, if he sets one up. A little more than that percentage thought the GOP should have shown more loyalty and support for Trump lately.

Almost 80% would snub Republican candidates who had supported the impeachment against Trump.

Up to 85% said they would vote for Trump again in 2024 if he won the Republican nomination for president.

To various degrees, political divide ensued after a presidential race, but backing for Trump followed large-scale attempts to portray him as a chief insurrectionist, traitor and destroyer of the Constitution. And as America has a two-party system, US President Joe Biden of the Democratic Party is reigning over a country where a considerable number of citizens prefer a third party led by his much-maligned enemy.

The Suffolk University-USA Today poll was conducted last week

February 21, 2021: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha remained the most popular Cabinet figure among people surveyed by Super Poll in the wake of the censure debate, but bad news for him is that the majority of them did not like his government and demanded a massive shake-up.

A survey of nearly 3,000 Thais between Feb 20-21 showed that, of the targeted Cabinet members, Prayut topped the “like” list with 44.7%. He was followed by Public Health Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul (41.3%).

The most intriguing findings, however, are that although a considerable majority (79.4%) agreed that the Prayut government should carry on, the people surveyed obviously believed that the current one has come up short and wanted a a big change. As much as 77.8%, insisted a large-scale Cabinet shake-up was needed.

In the survey, government supporters cited COVID-19 management and tangible progresses of key projects, whereas 20.6% did not want the government to carry on due to economic hardships and “selective” financial relief helps.

The opinion poll also revealed almost-complete disagreement with street protests making “delicate” demands (97.1%).

February 20, 2021: The government’s victory had been expected, and since the opposition has failed to create a big wave during the no-confidence debate, what comes under scrutiny are the numbers of votes received by each of the 10 targeted Cabinet members. Very likely, the word “Cobras” will be uttered and heard a lot in the next few days.

What are remarkable about the numbers of votes for and against include:

Despite the traditional “solidarity” among government and opposition MPs, this can be seen as one of the no-confidence sessions where votes varied, albeit slightly, the most among the targets. Confidence votes were not the same for everyone but neither were the votes of no-confidence.

The second-most biggest numbers of “confidence” votes went to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao, the most vilified figures in the earlier days of the Prayut government. To add to that, Thammanat is the only target with below 200 no-confidence votes. The champion of confidence votes is Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.

The varying degrees of no-confidence and confidence votes, combined with the characteristics and the party affiliations of some of those who received them and of those who cast them, should worry the opposition more than the government. (Ministers frowned upon by government colleagues are traditionally more common than opposition MPs breaking ranks in the voting.)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, the primary target, had satisfying numbers, although he received two fewer “confidence” votes than Prawit and Thammanat and got more no-confidence votes than both of them.

Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan must be very unsettled by the least “confidence” votes and the most “no-confidence” votes that he got. After all, many Cabinet ministers with the worst numbers in the past lost their places in subsequent reshuffles.

February 19, 2021: What has happened in Parliament over the past few days has deeply disappointed the Thai public, who feel nothing has changed from old-style politics of rhetoric and sarcasm before substance, according to an opinion poll on the censure debate.

A Super Poll survey of 1,683 people between Feb 16-18 showed that nearly 100% thought disrespect for parliamentary rules were prevalent and the parliamentary speaker and deputy speakers were powerless to stop it, “lawmakers” became “loophole finders”, information already well-known among the public widely was recycled and used with some added spices, and food-on-the-table issues were ignored for the sake of political vested interests.

“People feel disappointed and powerless (to change old-fashioned politics),” said Super Poll director Noppadon Kannika.

He added that while most of those taking to the microphone from both government and opposition camps love to pat themselves on the back while presenting their cases, the public definitely don’t like it. Nearly 72% thought the no-confidence debate became a session for self-promotion, while only about 8 % did not think so.

He said the Thai people see COVID-19 as a dark tunnel and were hoping Parliament would provide glimpses of light, only to be disappointed.

February 18, 2021: Normally, parliamentary oppositionists keep their best for last in their no-confidence attacks, so it’s not totally surprising that the first two days of the current censure debate yielded little in terms of shocking information. But since considerable time was spent on the divisive subject of the government’s coronavirus vaccine policy, the remaining time of the showdown is crucial all the same as far as the opposition is concerned.

In other words, the opposition has to produce, but the government does not have to. The Move Forward Party’s debate on the vaccines may have made splashes, but it could not really hurt the government. The rest of the censure, which the opposition’s chief whip said should end on Friday, is therefore important if the attackers mean to land heavy blows.

Suthin Klangsaeng, deputy Pheu Thai leader, said the opposition would be zooming in on projects at the Transport, Commerce and Education ministries as well as focusing attacks on Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan during the rest of its time. He said the censure should end on Friday and voting can take place on Saturday as tentatively planned.

He insisted that the opposition was “satisfied” with the “big picture”, because the bloc “has managed to expose failures and shortcomings of this government.”

February 17, 2021: The application is for closed communities, so comments against “outsiders” can be freer and harsher than those made in more open online platforms, said advocates of the newest social media kid in town, known as Clubhouse. And Digital Economy and Society Minister Puttipong Punnakanta can find himself in a hot seat with his remark about it.

“The same computer law principles will be applied to Clubhouse users, meaning that even though they come in private groups and members have to be invited, rights of third parties shall not be breached,” he said. “We support constructive use of all social media platforms, yet users must be under the same law.”

The application is the talk of the town, focusing on podcast-style communications within closed groups. Political animals have joined celebrities and members of the general public in registering membership or even migrating to it, both in Thailand and abroad. Global politics between the West and China, which probably is seeing threats to Tiktok, is adding to the excitement and intrigues.

February 16, 2021: If the parliamentary opposition manages to present a convincing case against the Prayut government during the censure debate, a lot of people will join street protests scheduled for February 20, leading Red Shirt activist Jatuporn Prompan has predicted.

He also said he foresaw the possibility of major violence, considering several key factors, not least scenes of untoward incidents over the weekend, the fact that both sides were blaming each other for them, and refusal of bails for certain arrested leaders of the anti-establishment movement.

“I believe the end (of compromise) is near,” he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha appeared to be in a playful mood when he arrived at Parliament in the morning for the censure. The opposition said he was just putting on a brave face going into the eye of the storm.

February 15, 2021: Growing worries and scepticism seem to feature in the latest NIDA survey about the higher echelon and “guards” of Ratsadon protesters, with a sizeable number of respondents suspecting “puppet masters” were behind recent controversial activities.

The survey was conducted before latest incidents over the weekend in which signs and fears of violence increased remarkably, and the poll’s top director suggested the findings would be even more telling had public opinions been sought in their aftermath.

“We did the survey before what happened over the weekend, which would have changed the numbers considerably,” said Suwicha Pao-aree, who oversees NIDA poll operations, in an interview.

More than 65 % of 1,315 people surveyed between February 8-10 said they believed there were people pulling the strings who are not the protest leaders seen at rally sites or on TV. Over 34 % said the protests were not guided by anyone except the known leaders.

Slightly over 20% said the protests were proceeding democratically. About 6.5% said non-democratic means have been used in a must-win-at-all-cost manner. (On certain questions, surveyed people were given several choices and freedom to choose more than one choices. This means certain significant responses can get low percentage but are remarkable all the same when answers are compared.)

More than 16% said they thought the country’s law and order had been disrespected during protests, compared with 2.51% who said protesters obeyed the law and order.

Almost 10% said they questioned respect for human rights and dignity during the campaign. That is compared with almost 9% who said it was a campaign for human rights and dignity.

More than 4% said they questioned information provided through the campaign. Slight over 3% said the campaign disseminated only truth.

On whether the “peaceful campaign” claim is being abandoned, slightly over 3.5% said they agreed, compared with 3.12% who disagreed.

About 3.5% said they thought the campaign responded to perceived rivalry without good conscience. This is compared with 1.52% who said “the other side” was always responded to with good conscience and responsibility.

February 14, 2021: Mini, homemade bombs exploded and bricks were thrown Saturday evening as previously-harmless projectiles turned into objects that could really hurt. This made the controversial treatment of flowers around the Democracy Movement by certain anti-establishment activists the least thing to worry about.

One of the guards, a well-known figure in red-shirt protests, posted in his Facebook slamming the violence. But Sombat Thongyoi’s remarks were as controversial. “What if (bombs or projectiles) hit people on the same side?” he said. To be fair, he shared another post critical of the protest that mentioned the possibility of innocent people getting injured.

He said even some guards negotiating with the police were running for their lives as well.

Sombat said the likelihood of a “third-party” hand in the violence could be ruled out. “They were from this side, who went out of control after protest leaders left,” he wrote.

Before his post, which revealed unorganised natures of “security planning” among the “guards”, fearless men who were supposed to “protect” the majority of protesters, video clips of what was done at the Democracy Monument went viral. In them, pot flowers lined up around the structure as decorations were thrown around as they were considered to be obstructing symbols of ideological fight.

Unruly behaviours of some of the guards afterwards led to greater worries. Homemade bombs exploded near the area and bricks were thrown, with police commandos standing guards being targeted. Smoke filled certain areas and people were seen running and scattering. In the Facebook post that Sombat shared, it was said that the image of “peaceful” protests is in serious danger of being shattered. Sombat said the outburst was unsurprising because “emotional prep was taking place all day”.

February 13, 2021: Rebellious votes or suspicious abstentions were highlights of many past censure sessions, and small parties in the ruling coalition have made targeted Cabinet members squirm by promising to make decisions based on conscience, not political obligations.

“We are here to protect national interests, not any minister’s interests,” said Ravee Maschamadol, the leader of the New Palangdharma Party, one of the lesser-know, tiny camps in the government coalition.

Many small parties’ representatives could be absent from a “tutorial” session starting today and ending tomorrow, in which government MPs are to be trained on how to counter the opposition’s censure attacks.

“The opposition has insisted that its evidence (of malfeasance, inefficacy or corruption) is solid,” Ravee said. “If it is as solid as they say, we will have a look. And if we can’t give our votes of confidence, we won’t.”

But even Ravee admitted that there would not be enough swing votes to put any minister out of office. However, in past censures, ministers who survived with the least numbers of confidence votes were strongly scrutinised afterwards, and many lost their Cabinet portfolios in subsequent reshuffles. In the current political context, in which constitution amendment and cutthroat divide come into play, rebellious MPs have added significance.

A through “vote check” will be traditionally done before the upcoming censure.

February 12, 2021: One of the foremost anti-establishment leaders who is in exile overseas is facing a defamation charge by a fellow anti-government activist, as the ideological landscape they are in has been apparently rattled by internal conflicts.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, idolised by many Thai protesters, has been strongly criticised lately for posting in his popular online site an old, hidden-camera picture of a private affair of the female activist, who had insisted her political enemies were responsible for taking her pictures and leaking them. Pavin’s pictorial post has been deleted, but his accusation that the photo might not have come from a political persecution plot after all, but a deliberate “self-promotion” scheme, remains. The issue has brought her considerable sympathy and support and turned quite a few anti-government activists against him.

She has filed a complaint, adding to a curious backdrop of internal conflicts involving charges of hypocrisy, condoning of violence and embezzlement of funds among anti-government activists. Such infighting is said to be a key reason why the protest movement has seemed to be struggling lately.

February 11, 2021: From the start, there has been something stealth about Sakulthorn Juangroongruangkit’s case. That has not changed when he reported himself to the police today to officially acknowledge bribery charges.

Nobody knew for sure what he meant by saying to reporters that he was only helping the state. That was his only statement to the press in a strictly in-and-out police visit, which triggered so much excitement and yielded basically nothing. By saying so, was he referring to the bribery allegations, or was he just talking about today specifically?

People are wanting to know more about the nature of the Bt20 million the younger brother of star politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit paid two convicted fraudsters who had deceptively promised him a mega rental deal involving a lucrative piece of Chidlom land owned by the Crown Property Bureau. Was the payment recorded in his company’s book? If so, as what? Was tax paid? Did he pay the money unilaterally or did other executives of his company approve the payment as well? If they were involved, how much did they know? Why didn’t he file a complaint with the police on knowing he was “duped” out of Bt20 million? Why wasn’t he used as a witness when the convicts were tried?

Today shedded no light, with the Crime Suppression police defending their frustratingly slow work as something that needs to proceed thoroughly and carefully. So far, what the media have is a court ruling on the two convicts that suggested the payment was a bribe in nature, and Sakulthorn’s earlier press statement that he was a victim of a scam.

February 10, 2021: Vaccines and promising declines in infection rates in many parts of the world can tempt a lot of people to get cocky about the threats of the coronavirus, but international experts have warned that the “guards” must remain extremely tight because nobody knows the full potentials of the highly-contagious variants and questions still hang over transmissibility of vaccinated people.

Infected people who have recovered can get re-infected and, despite improved immunity, can pass the virus on to others. This strongly suggests that vaccines are not 100 % effective in preventing the virus from being transmitted from dose recipients to others. Illness may be reduced, and the virus may be weakened thanks to the vaccines, but risks remain very high, the experts said.

The best bet, the scientists insisted, is for the public to do what they have done over the past year and for the government to use the same criteria regarding lockdowns and reopening.

Rushing to return to normal life not only asks too much of hastily-developed vaccines, but also welcomes the more dangerous variants with open arms, they said.

February 9, 2021: Will proposed charter changes be delayed, if they can happen at all? That’s the ultimate question following today’s development in which a motion seeking the Constitutional Court’s opinions on charter amendment sailed through Parliament.

The motion has been decried by the opposition as the government’s delaying tactic, but the bloc’s worries now should go beyond “delay”. The worst-case scenario has the “referendum” debate rekindled to dramatic game-changing effects.

Many government MPs reportedly agreed that the current Constitution should be changed, but the question of “how” is the crux of the volatile situation, particularly because the charter had undergone a public referendum and because proposed changes to it would involve unorthodox methods. Should any change require a future referendum? How much authority Parliament has to go around the referendum issue, particularly since a new body could be set up to propose major changes to the charter. The questions are explosive, and could involve activities that might deepen national divide.

The Constitutional Court will have its say after today’s vote (366 against 316 in favour of the motion) in Parliament. The best-case scenario for those advocating a fast-paced process has the court eventually decide to stay away, saying how the charter should be changed is a parliamentary matter. It was the kind of argument promoted by many today, but those favouring the court’s interference pointed at the court’s founding obligation to prevent overuse or abuse of legislative powers and to settle divisive constitutional conflicts.

February 8, 2021: An attempt to virtually seek Constitutional Court opinions on whether or how the present charter can be changed might pit the government against the opposition and create rifts within the ruling coalition.

Opinions have been divided among government MPs and senators over the effort to have the court rule on how much Parliament can do regarding key matters including charter amendment, with some arguing that a public referendum a few years ago endorsing the present Constitution could present a stumbling block to a fast-paced and unorthodox process.

It had been tentatively agreed between the government and the opposition that a charter drafting assembly shall be elected to amend a charter, but an urgent motion is now said to be around the corner to practically question such a process and bring the Constitutional Court into the picture.

The opposition has warned that seeking the court’s opinions could be the government’s delaying tactic. The government said that the Constitutional Court, if consulted, is expected to move quickly, adding that any ruling coalition party, the Democrats in particular, would be allowed to have a free vote on whether or not the court should be approached.

February 7, 2021: One word, “again”, in Anont Nampa’s latest Facebook post can tell a thousand more words, according to people reading it, which referred to the on-going anti-coup protest in Myanmar.

In the post, Anont, one of the anti-establishment protest leaders in Thailand, said: “If protesters in Myanmar win, a domino effect will reach Thailand and the campaign against dictatorship will be on fire again. This time it should be fast and furious.”

It was intended to be motivational, of course, but several people were quick to interpret that the word “again” meant the campaign was not currently on fire, or at least was not going the way he and many would love to see, so they were counting on the simmering situation in Myanmar to provide a new spark.

February 6, 2021: Both the government and opposition cannot be happy with the latest Super Poll survey on the upcoming no-confidence debate, with overwhelming majorities of Thais agreeing the former has very much come up short and the latter is motivated by power hunger rather than genuine concern for public interests.

Of more than 1,700 Thais surveyed this week, almost 100 % (99.3%) wanted a Cabinet reshuffle after the censure, which should take place from February 16 to February 19, with the possibility of an extension. Slightly more than 90 % said the current Cabinet setup is troublesome leading to problems on several fronts.

That should make the opposition smile, but a staggering majority (98.3 %) believed that this censure was conceived for the sake of the bloc’s own interests rather than the nation’s. However, 93% thought the government helped open the door for the opposition because of inefficacy and corruption of state officials, particularly those supposed to fight illegal labour, gambling and narcotics.

At a meeting of government and opposition representatives on Friday, it was tentatively agreed that each of the targeted Cabinet members except Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha would face censure in one go. In other words, attacks against one minister will start and end in a period of time. However, opposition speakers can return to Prayut whenever they want.

February 5, 2021: Thailand’s high-level relationships with its military-dominated neighbour transcend ideology most of the times, and one of the “most expensive” scandals involved a cheap, suspiciously-granted loan to Myanmar from a “democratic” Bangkok government.

Thaksin Shinawatra was found guilty in connection with the Bt4 billion EXIM Bank loan, proposed and granted when he was prime minister, and Pheu Thai, the party of which he remains a de facto patriarch, should keep that in mind when joining anti-Myanmar and Thai protesters in condemning the coup in the neighbouring country, anti-Thaksin commentators say.

The commentators also point out that when Yingluck Shinawatra visited Myanmar as Thailand’s prime minister, she had a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi and Thaksin claimed credit for using his high-level connection with Myanmar’s military for that talk.

Thaksin’s claim was denied by the Yingluck government’s Foreign Ministry, which said it did not need him for the pre-meeting liaison.

The latest Myanmar coup has sparked protests in Thailand, joined by both Thai and Myanmar activists as well as supported by many Thai opposition politicians. Asean politics regarding Myanmar often involved business interests at various levels, and everybody seems to have a secret when it comes to this neighbouring country.

Almost two years ago, the Thai Supreme Court’s division for political office holders sentenced Thaksin to three years in prison after finding him guilty of malfeasance in office regarding the Thai EXIM bank loan. Critics and accusers had tried to link the loan, intended for Myanmar’s telecom development and services, to his family’s business empire.

February 4, 2021: Maha Sarakham’s COVID-19 infections are largely of the “cluster” type, referring to friends or relatives sharing special moments together or staying in the same venues, leading health officials to warn that Chinese New Year activities must be carried out carefully.

“The guards must be extremely high and all guidances must be strictly observed,” said Suwanchai Wattanayingcharoenchai, director-general of the Department of Health.

There will be countless parties or gatherings taking place in the next few days to mark the Chinese New Year, and those with fever along with suspicious symptoms must not join those events and separate themselves, he said.

Hygiene must be all the way through _ from when ingredients are prepared, to when the cooking takes place, to when people eat and to garbage collection and disposal, he stressed. Hand washer must be provided by the hosts, sufficiently and in locations that are easy to spot, and everyone must wear a face mask. Food must be reheated constantly and spoons and forks must be used in a very careful manner.

February 3, 2021: As a veteran politician, Chalerm Yoobamrung has been making countless proposals throughout his career, but the latest one, on how to best tackle illegal casinos, must stand out among his best.

In a Facebook post, Chalerm said solving the problem, a sure-fire no-confidence topic and blamed largely for the current COVID-19 spread, was not as hard as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha thought. There is no need to set up committees, which will certainly set up sub-committees, which will surely assign more people to work for them, he explained.

The idea is this: The government has to officially set “ceilings” on numbers of gamblers arrested.  If the number reaches a point but is not beyond the next point, the most senior police officer in the area shall be transferred or removed. If the number crosses the next point, the district chief shall be removed, too. If the number goes beyond that and reaches the highest “ceiling”, the provincial governor must go, along with the police officer and district chief responsible.

The idea requires the signatures and immediate responses of only three persons, said Chalerm, a senior Pheu Thai figure who was very familiar with police work himself. They are the national police chief, the director general of the Provincial Administration Department, and the permanent secretary for interior.

Chalerm’s proposal, however, is unlikely to encourage local police to be active, so maybe some sort of an FBI-style task force would be necessary.

February 2, 2021: The government and the opposition look certain to have a showdown over time allocation for the no-confidence debate, with the latter suggesting today that they may take the matters to the highest constitutional level if the former attempted to end the session before all of some 45 opposition speakers can finish their assignments.

Commenting on the four-day timeframe favoured by the government, opposition chief whip Suthin Klangsaeng said the opposition had not complained to the Constitutional Court when the last censure was ended despite certain opposition MPs being unable to speak.

“We were allowed to lodge a complaint, but we didn’t do it because we didn’t want to create any problem. But this time we may have to do it if similar things happen. We need to set a precedent, because the opposition is entitled to finishing its censure task (even if it may last longer than initially scheduled),” he said. The Pheu Thai MP said 15 speakers would come from his party, and the overall opposition censure army would be 45-member strong.

“You must be wondering whether new parliamentary stars will be born. I guarantee you they will,” Suthin added.

February 1, 2021: A sideshow of Myanmar’s military “coup” has Thailand’s opposition and government take digs at each other, with the former bemoaning economic consequences that are looming in the neighbouring country.

The government was also quick to state that outsiders should not jump the gun at the moment, saying information from Myanmar remained sketchy and that Bangkok was as puzzled as the rest of the world regarding what’s happening across the border.

The opposition Pheu Thai Party, more specifically deputy party leader Pichai Nariptaphan, has criticised Myanmar’s military, which he said has brought nothing but economic hardships to the neighbouring nation through political suppression condemned worldwide.

“Every time the military does anything like that, Myanmar suffers,” he said. “Just like Thailand.”

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the prime minister had called for close monitoring of the situation because the Thai government itself had little idea what was going on.

“Every agency is working on it, because truth is that we know little,” he said. “The whole world is puzzled and confused, so who are we to say we know better?”

January 31, 2021: The pandemic will “keep burning” and humanity will lose its great moral assets unless wealthiest nations share coronavirus vaccines with poor countries, the World Health Organisation has warned.

“If we hoard vaccines and we are not sharing, there will be three major problems,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “One, it will be a catastrophic moral failure and two it keeps the pandemic burning and three there will be a very slow global economic recovery.”

The warning has come amid growing tension between rich countries over who get more doses and sooner. Poor nations are not even in the fight and signs are that no matter how “late” some rich countries will get the vaccines, impoverished populations will receive them even later, probably much later.

The WHO chief stressed that important assets of humanity will be lost, which could impact the world’s fight against the virus as well, if rich countries hoard vaccines. “It (remains) our choices and I hope we choose the right things,” he said.

January 30, 2021: With daily infections in Samut Sakhon threatening to break through the 1,000 barrier, Thailand’s praiseworthy places on coronavirus tables might be in danger.

An Australian think tank, the Lowy Institute has announced that New Zealand has handled the coronavirus pandemic more effectively than any other country in the world. It was followed by Vietnam, Taiwan and Thailand, which were ranked second, third and fourth respectively.

Researchers tracked case numbers in each country, as well as confirmed deaths and testing rates.

New Zealand has also topped a “Resilient Ranking” announced by Bloomberg late last year, with Taiwan also doing well. Thailand was 14th and Vietnam was 10th. The November ranking took into account access to vaccines, a category in which Thailand did not do well.

Democracies were obviously outperformed by authoritarian regimes during the initial phases of the pandemic but, with the notable exception of America and England, have been bouncing back rather impressively, rankings and surveys show.

January 29, 2021: The Pheu Thai Party has insisted there was no need to review the wording in the no-confidence motion filed against the Prayut government, saying any reference to the monarchy would not lead to “improper” debate which the House speaker can control anyway.

Sira janjakha, a Palang Pracharath MP, has threatened to file lese majeste charges against those who signed the motion. Sira said he was deeply disappointed with opposition leader Sompong Amornwiwat who failed to submit a properly-worded no-confidence motion.

However, the biggest opposition party has today dismissed fears that the wording was tantamount to condoning unorthodox debate. The motion, the party said, was aimed at justifying criticism in Parliament against the Prayut administration only.

Sira is outspoken and he does not represent the government bloc. However, it had been said that the motion wording had worried some in the opposition camp, although the Pheu Thai Party has declared today that the motion was perfectly constitutional and would not encourage any improper statement from either side on the assembly hall.

“We all know how to behave so there is nothing to worry about,” said MP Prasert Janruangthong, secretary-general of the Pheu Thai Party. “We are only performing our parliamentary duty. Moreover, there is the House speaker to oversee the debate.’

January 28, 2021: Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s younger brother and their mother are very likely set to face legal action over Bt20 million their real estate company paid convicted fraudsters, a case that can set the already-volatile political scene on fire.

Crime suppression police have told the House committee on legal justice and human rights they would summon Sakulthorn and Somporn Juangroongruangkit and slap charges related to the controversial payment, made by the former, who has insisted that he was duped into paying the money. As Somporn is also an executive of the Real Assets Development Company, she would also face charges, as investigators reportedly concluded that there was no way she was not aware of such a major payment.

Sakulthorn and Somporn are yet to be formally charged, and legal opinions have been divided over whether he intended to “bribe” a senior person at the Crown Property Bureau or he was actually convinced that the payment was an innocent method to get a business deal done. In a statement recently, Sakulthorn portrayed himself as a victim of the convicts, who deceived him into thinking they could help him secure a land rental contract with the Crown Property Bureau.

Divided opinions would play a big part in inflaming the already-heated political situation regarding Thanathorn’s activities.

One easy way to define the nature of the controversial payment, experts say, is check taxation or lack thereof regarding the money. Proper business transactions must be taxed, they point out, adding that Real Assets Development’s book must have records of such payment.

January 27, 2021: In Thailand, politicisation of the vaccines can get ugly, and globally, scrambles for the medical innovations can get really fierce, due to supply problems and America’s increased efforts to ramp up inoculation.

Complaints about delayed supplies are getting louder in Europe, as the new US administration under Joe Biden, who has declared that the pandemic was his “War”, is boosting purchases of coronavirus vaccines to deliver enough to protect 300 million Americans by the end of the summer. How much America is responsible for the supply troubles is still unclear, but the European Union is not happy with the United States at the moment.

America has topped all unenviable COVID-19 charts by a mile, so its vaccine policy is somewhat understandable, but the fight for vaccines will get nasty all around the globe, according to international watchers, both in political and public health sectors. The world will almost certainly see a turmoil over prices, availability and the issue of prioritising jab receivers.

International situations have been made more complicated by fears among sizeable numbers of people that the obvious rushes to produce and approve vaccines may have led to “unsafe” products. A vaccine can be frowned at if, for example, the number of infections decreases and the number of deaths rises, in which case “vaccine-enhanced severity” will be suspected.

January 26, 2021: The coronavirus and cutthroat Thai politics did not combine completely earlier, but have converged absolutely with disastrous effects feared by health officials.

It is said that key opposition figures, some of them not in Parliament, have decided to collide head-on with the government over the COVID-19 situation including the issue of vaccination, which some fear might be delayed due to politicisation.

With the infection number in Samut Sakhon very scary and those in other provinces still worrisome, whereas political showdowns are revolving heavily around related measures to fight the virus, more and more senior doctors have come out to warn that the health issue should be separated from politics.

According to the doctors, some of whom had never commented on political matters before, required urgent and scientific action could get bogged down by varying personal agendas. Thailand’s COVID-19 situation, the doctors said, was very fragile and a slight misstep could prove disastrous.

January 25, 2021: When the last no-confidence debate took place, COVID-19 was a baby crisis and nobody had anticipated a massive “three fingers” mob. The upcoming one has the coronavirus as an intimidating and overwhelming backdrop, and the defiance of a youngster-led campaign against Thailand’s political culture as an unpredictable factor.

Alleged corruption that allowed the virus to sneak back into Thailand and cause a fearsome deja vu that might still get worse will likely play into the hand of the opposition. Street protests may not. There are too many controversies regarding the anti-establishment campaign to precisely determine how the government and the opposition will benefit or suffer from it.

Another key difference between this and that censures has to do with the numbers of targets. The upcoming no-confidence session will see as many as 10 Cabinet members under attacks, whereas the previous one grilled approximately half the number. It was easier to manage time then, and yet opposition parties sulked at each other, so they must be very careful this time.

Some targets could be decoys, however. Big and real has to be be Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, for obvious reasons.

Similarities include the cutthroat and toxic divide, which plagued that censure and will certainly dominate this one, making re-alliance more and more difficult, and “external” factors (dissolution of the Future Forward Party then and the influential shadows of its leaders now).

January 24, 2021: Comments from both the government and opposition camp have strongly suggested that how the state has been handling the coronavirus pandemic will dominate the upcoming censure, with alleged corruption leading to cracks in the Thai fortress the latter’s biggest weapon.

The government is expected to hit back with claims about previous “successes” that include low numbers infection and fatality cases last year, and about “relief” policies that the public seemed to like. The opposition would say that past successes would count for nothing if the current crisis spiralled out of control, and that overwhelming responses to “relief” measures were out of desperation rather than admiration.

Street protests that led to risky gatherings and some controversial remarks about vaccine policies are also expected to feature during the debate.

“It will be useless if the opposition focuses its attacks on something else,” said Senator Wanchai Sornsiri in a Facebook post. “The public care about only one thing, which is how they can get out of the health and economic threats of COVID-19.”

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul admitted that he expected to be on the list of the opposition’s censure target. “In times like this, Cabinet members in my kind of positions are under more scrutiny than others,” he said. “Which is good, because we will have a chance to explain what we have done and help explain related government policies.”

Constantly, key opposition figures have said they would open wounds that the public would remember. Illegal entries at long borders can leave fingerprints all over the place and links between authorities and unlawful gambling activities should not be hard to find.

January 23, 2021: As threats of a major coronavirus resurgence remain high in Thailand, so does Thai people’s alert regarding such standard measures as mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing, a recent opinion poll has revealed.

A Bangkok Poll, surveying nearly 1,200 Thais, has found that almost 100% are aware that wearing masks in public and repeated hand washing were things that need to be done. Nearly 87 % are “more careful” or aware of social distancing when going out, especially to crowded destinations like shopping malls. Almost 75 % stated that checking timelines of infected people, if the information is available and reliable, is essential.

On how much hope they had on vaccines, nearly 33 % said they had the highest hope, whereas more than 51 % said they had fair hope. About 16 % had a little or no hope at all.

January 22, 2021: The opposition is expected to make a final decision in the next two days on who will be targeted for censure, although time is running out on the bloc’s initial plan to submit a no-confidence motion before the end of the month.

Disagreement over censure targets plagued the opposition’s previous no-confidence campaign, but signs of better cooperation have prevailed currently, thanks partly to the COVID-19 resurgence which would make it look really strange if the Public Health Ministry was not included in the censure motion.

Opposition chief whip Suthin Klangsaeng has suggested the no-confidence attack would focus on preventable economic problems, “illegal” and “inhuman” ways of state treatment of anti-establishment protesters as well as corruption. He insisted that accusations would be backed up by solid evidence.

Up to 13 Pheu Thai MPs, fewer than the last time, would be speaking at the censure, he said, adding that seven or more Cabinet members will be targeted. A final decision should be made at a meeting of opposition parties in the next two days.

January 21, 2021: The Move Forward Party has repeated Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s controversial comments regarding the government’s coronavirus vaccine policy during a House of Representatives session today, the first of what promises to be a series of parliamentary debates on how vaccination should be handled.

The transfer of power in the United States was also mentioned as a sideshow, with Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome saying that while Joe Biden had sworn to protect the Constitution, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha did not do so and that is why Prayut did not have Thai people’s best interests at heart when it comes to COVID-19. Rangsiman did not mention stark differences in numbers of infections and fatalities, however.

Today’s House session allowed MPs to put forward general queries.

Rangsiman demanded that the government publicise all details regarding the pandemic and medication policy. The government side replied that everything had been done transparently including the search for vaccines and their distributors.

January 20, 2021: From last December up until now, the volumes of rumours regarding COVID-19 have increased 10 folds, the government has said.

Some “fake” information is old, like holding breath for 10 seconds can allow you to check for yourself whether you are infected, but some rumours are new and related to the current surge in Thailand. Inter-provincial travel bans, provincial lockdowns here and there and high-profile infections or infections that can spark panic are hit subjects of current rumours.

There are three types of rumour-mongers _ those wanting to create situations that can undermine authorities’ work or seeking to benefit from panic, those who are just having fun in the wrong way, and those who are simply mentally ill.

Social media users are urged to double-check news and see whether reliable media are reporting it and think carefully before sharing the information. Fake news originators are warned that the current technology could easily trace how a rumour came about, and criminal action can be taken if suspects are believed to have malicious intent.

“Between June and November last year, we had to deal with about two or three rumours a month,” said Putchapong Nodthaisong, deputy permanent secretary of the Digital Economy and Society Ministry. “It’s now 10 times that.”

January 19, 2021: Government and opposition politicians attacking each other means little most of the time, but Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul taking a dig at a key opposition figure, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, is significant when future re-alliance is concerned.

Although he is not an MP, Thanathorn remains influential for the Move Forward Party, instrumental in the opposition camp which, from the very beginning, has been needing Anutin’s Bhumjaithai Party’s U-turn to tip the numeral near-balance in the House of Representatives in its favour.

But Thanathorn has criticised the government’s coronavirus vaccine policy as favouring a certain company in a suspicious way, and that has displeased Anutin greatly. The minister has responded by slamming Thanathorn’s utmost political ideology, using words like “ingratitude toward” a respected institution “credited with laying groundworks for health service in rough territories, encouraging health workers in those areas and giving help and equipment to people not easily accessible through normal government channels”.

Thanathorn, Anutin, said, “seems to know a lot about many things except for one thing which he should know about the most.”

If that does not rule out a switch of political allegiance, little else can.

January 18, 2021: One of the most-watched political figures is Jatuporn Prompan, after he has fallen out with Thaksin Shinawatra, and the activist is walking a tightrope in his recent public comments.

Jatuporn has still criticised the powers-that-be during his regular video blogs, but ones can be forgiven for thinking that he is a bit vague lately and did not sound as belligerent against the state as before.

“Confused” can be added to vague and less belligerent. Take his latest comment for example. He called for “unity” to destroy the “wall of injustice” which he said has prevailed in the economic sphere. Once a no-nonsense critic of political dictatorship, he now said economic dictatorship was equally scary. That he avoided direct attacks on key establishments targeted by current protesters, reportedly backed by Thaksin, was apparent.

“We must build a new hope,” he said. “It’s everyone’s homework to think how this wall of injustice that has become a fortress through economic monopolies can be overcome. If everyone is united, nothing will stand in the way.”

This is the man who in 2010 mentioned “sea of fire” and allegedly supported violence against symbolic structures of wealth during a stormy red-shirt, pro-Thaksin encampment protest in downtown Bangkok, which largely influenced his imprisonment. Three things are certain: His latest comment would not land him in jail, Thaksin would not be pleased by it, and many people must have been confused.

January 17, 2021: Experts monitoring political extremist activism in the United States have been alarmed by a rapidly growing number of social media users switching to platforms with lesser restrictions following online action against “hate speech”.

“Bans” on outgoing President Donald Trump and others over fears their posts could spark violence have been followed by a migration of many who had communicated through Facebook and Twitter to other platforms. Those platforms include Telegram, where white supremacists and extremists had existed, and whose moderators have been seeing a worrying increase in reports on calls to violence, something forbidden in its Terms of Service.

When posts do not call for violence, they express feelings of people “who think they have been wronged” by the political system and by Big Tech. An expert on extremism had been quoted as saying that “the plots of tomorrow are literally being hatched right now”. A similar comment was made by another political expert, who said that even if Trump was to come out and admit today that his election fraud claims were all lies intended to help him hang on to power, that would not stop America from spiralling into deep, dangerous and possibly violent divisions.

Talks have begun on whether it was a really good idea to drive potentially-troublesome social media users from popular platforms, as the measure could “blind” the authorities relying on “indicators” or “fingerprints” left on the likes of Twitter and Facebook.

January 16, 2021: US prosecutors have backed down on initial claims that protesters storming the Capital Hill earlier this month had intended to capture and kill some lawmakers, a move that came amid growing fears that the country is facing the kind of third-world, long-term political divide that would not end on Joe Biden’s inauguration day.

The prosecutors, in making the U-turn, reasoned that there was no strong or direct evidence. However, in a violent political incident in which four protesters died, after which some even became political martyrs, the claims indicating such heinous intent may not be a good idea if “reconciliation” is to be promoted. The protesters’ deaths have been played down by much of the American media but talks about them have been viral among a massive number of Trump’s supporters, both privately and online.

One of the killed protesters is Ashli Babbitt, 35, an Air Force veteran from Southern California. She was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer as she clambered through a broken window. Her last moment caught on video shows Babbitt, a Trump flag knotted around her neck, being hoisted to the window amid mob shouting. Then a shot rings and she falls back, blood pouring from her mouth. The video has become a rallying cry online.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of troops have been deployed in the capital for the inauguration next week as Americans look forward to it anxiously, fearful of more pro-Trump “rioting” or violence or “insurrection” as claimed by some.

It will be a few days of consternation, but several US politicians and analysts have said that even if the inauguration would pass peacefully, the divide that followed Trump’s election fraud claims and the Capitol Hill tragedy is becoming deep-rooted and American politics may never be the same.

January 15, 2021: Opinion polls have said it and even the pro-government camp is saying it, but whether or how Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will address the government’s weakest spots is anybody’s guess.

Partisan social commentator Seri Wongmontha is the latest person to point out that Prayut’s most vulnerable weaknesses are corrupted immigration authorities and the proliferation of illegal gambling houses in Thailand. Both issues have been largely blamed for the resurgence of COVID-19 in the country which is creating a new wave of social and economic hardships.

“Nobody will listen if he says that the problems can’t be solved by even 100 prime ministers,” Seri said. “He must do it, with all the power he has, because success or failure will be his jugular vein, not anything else.”

Seri, a government supporter on various issues, was practically repeating what a few opinion polls have found _ that most Thais believe illegal immigration can’t exist without state officials’ hand in it and neither can illegal casinos, and that these are the two problems which would not go away through political rhetoric.

January 14, 2021: Comparisons have been made between Thaksin Shinawatra and Donald Trump to show that they have a lot of things in common, but there is one stark difference related to the two, on paper at least.

Trump was described by the media in his country and pro-US overseas news outlets as trying to incite a “coup”, whereas Thaksin was portrayed pretty much by the same media as a victim of a coup.

In effect, Trump was a “coup leader” whereas Thaksin was a “democratic leader ousted by a coup.”

The rest, according to Thaksin’s critic Jermsak Pinthong, is strikingly similar.

He said in an online post that Thaksin and Trump were wealthy businessmen who entered politics for curious reasons. Other similarities include: The two instigated political protests that caused great national divides; they have problems with taxation yet have made amazingly similar claims that they paid more taxes than other compatriots; they split the media down the middle; they were accused of interfering with the justice systems and using their influences to favour their own people; they let family members and close relatives meddle with administrative affairs and left nepotistic fingerprints all over the place; they flattered their political bases although democracy required them to treat all sides equally; they manipulated their political cases when things did not go their way politically; they loved to brag, one way or another, about their wealth; they disdained checks and balances; they took political losses too personally; they were accused of being responsible for property damage and loss of lives as a result of their political agendas; they want to remain in spotlights, for better or worse, regardless of their current statuses; and experts have been suspicious about their mental health.

January 13, 2021: The question about the effectiveness of a coronavirus vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac and ordered by Thailand is medical and technical at the moment, but it can turn increasingly political the closer its arrival is.

The question involves many somewhat confusing datas, and a blow has come for the Thai government. A Brazilian research group has said that, on some conditions, the vaccine has worked only about 50 % of the time.

The contentious conditions include the administering of the vaccine to people “with very mild” infections” without clinical assistance. The same researchers had found the vaccine to be 78 % effective otherwise.

Vaccines teach the body’s immune system to fight a virus. It generally takes many days or weeks for the body to create desired immunity after vaccination. This means a person might be infected with the coronavirus before or just after vaccination and still become sick. It seems that the Chinese vaccine has different effects on various types of infections or various stages of symptoms. In mild or severe cases, the vaccine has been said to be quite effective, which is good news. Bad news is it reportedly might have a problem with “very mild” infections.

In addition to Brazil and Thailand, the likes of Indonesia, Singapore and Turkey have ordered the same vaccine, though the orderers are not limiting their choices of purchase.

One thing is certain: All eyes will be on the Chinese vaccine from now on and Thai people will learn a lot about technical and medical aspects of vaccines in the next few days.

January 12, 2021: The government expects the numbers of daily COVID-19 infections will stay above 100 for up to three months but does not totally rule out the possibility of this year’s Songkran going back to what it was famous for.

Last year, water throwing was not allowed, making it the most quiet Songkran in recent memory. Holidays were even postponed although many people did not go to their workplaces due to lockdown measures. This year, according to the Public Health Ministry, the fun-filled activity could return if the scary surge stops in time.

“If the authorities controlling and implementing key measures perform their duties well and the Thai public lend their best cooperation, we hope Thais can enjoy Songkran (in April) once again,” said Deputy Public Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha on Monday. He, however, admitted that the daily infection numbers have remained high and will be above 100 every day for up to three months.

January 11, 2021: Two million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from China are poised for emergency approval and use by Thai authorities and the first jabs could be just a few weeks away, according to the Thai Public Health Ministry.

The first lot of about 200,000 doses is expected to arrive in February. About 800,000 doses should follow the month after. Then in April, one million doses should come in April. This is according to the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration.

Despite lesser international fanfare compared with vaccination linked to major western countries, COVID-19 medication from China seems to be making major steps among various countries.

The first lots to arrive in Thailand would be Sinovac vaccines, and they are to be given to health personnel and those living in areas with highest risks first. In the near future, Thailand expects to immunise 30 million people, according to the CCSA.

The Sinovac vaccine’s effectiveness is about 78 %, relatively lower than the 94 % and 95 % of the vaccines being rolled out, albeit rather slowly due to logistic and maintenance obstacles, in the West, the CCSA admitted. However, the agency said the Thai authorities have taken many things into account when vaccination is concerned, such as transportation, side effects and temperature factors.

January 10, 2021: As fresh land woes rattle the Juangroongruangkit family, one government MP, herself embroiled more or less with the same kind of problems, could not hide her delight.

Pareena Kraukpupt’s one-week-old Tiktok post is becoming viral. In it, she danced specifically to celebrate the Forest Department’s action against alleged encroachment of forest reserve land by Somporn Juangroongruangkit, the mother of political star Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. The news about the department’s official attempt to reclaim a huge plot of land from Somporn came shortly before Pareena’s latest Tiktok stunt but it was overshadowed by the COVID-19 surge and New Year moods.

It was the latest major setback for Thanathorn, whose political selling point is his perceived efforts to create social “equality”. In a matter of weeks, his younger brother has been accused of attempting a bribe, he himself has been frowned upon over why a yacht that he co-owns was registered in an overseas tax haven, and now his mother has been officially alleged to do what many well-connected, wealthy people do _ grabbing prohibited forest land or plots earmarked for the poor.

Pareena has had troubles with prohibited land herself, but has been insistent about alleged offences of the Juangroongruangkit family. In an online post the other day, she seemed not satisfied with Ratchaburi provincial authorities, who she said sought to reclaim a lot less land than what Somporn has dubiously acquired.

Pareena is easily the most controversial female MP on the government side and has been consistently in the news, in public spats or engaged in potential lawsuits. She always defended her Tiktok dances, insisting that no law prevents politicians from doing so.

January 9, 2021: Every year, the government’s Children’s Day mottos emphasised the same things _ hard work, good discipline and unity. “Loyalty” has shown up once in a while, but the word will almost certainly become controversial this time around.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha put “loyalty” in this year’s slogan and he backed it up in an interview, saying that the hallmarks of Thai children must include love and support for key national institutions. That his message came hot on the heels of an anti-establishment rebellion led by the country’s youngsters will not be overlooked.

A loose translation of Prayut’s Children’s Day slogan has it that Thailand’s “new-age children” will “join forces and hearts” to build the nation, with “moral conscience and loyalty.”

January 8, 2021: It may be a coincidence that America’s most divisive politics in recent memory is materialising at a time when the country is topping all the unenviable COVID-19 charts, and that an angry and violent mob attacked the US Capitol on the day the United States registered more daily virus deaths than ever before, nearly 3,900.

Observers say the Coronavirus seems to thrive on political problems obstructing extreme health measures and preventing constructive cooperation. Whether that is true or not when America is concerned, media comments have been made on how many fatalities could have been “preventable” had there been better coordination among the authorities, acceptance of tough policies and less confusion among the public as to what is good and what is bad.

In America, even mask wearing was turned into a major political issue. December by far was that country’s deadliest month yet. It was in the middle of an explosion of America’s political divide _ just after a cutthroat election race and before the still-uncertain inauguration of Joe Biden.

January 7, 2021: “Donald Trump is looking increasingly like some Roman emperors on their last days.” “Pro-Trump rioters are teaching Thailand’s three-finger mob how to do it.” These are among social media comments mocking the United States for its current situation, which officially draws global concern but privately makes many frown or even chuckle.

A CNN statement is not actually a joke, but it’s a polite version of what is being said largely on the social media around the globe. The “already-dubious model of democracy” status is “harder to defend now”, after pro-Trump rioting rocked the US Congress, commented the US-based news network.

A photoshopped picture on Twitter depicts Trump wrestled to the ground by police. One angry American called the protesters “terrorists”, which reminds Thais how anti-government demonstrators are often dubbed.

“Save America. Bring Trump back” one Twitter user said, possibly sarcastically.

Chaos seems to have ended or abated. But a woman has died in the infamous Capitol breach, along with three others, making it a real tragedy. World leaders have condemned an “attack on democracy”, details of which are still emerging, and even some Republicans are backing calls for immediate removal of Trump from office.

January 6, 2021: Senatorial election results in Georgia will not only affect Joe Biden significantly, but they will also embolden the already fearsome motives of Donald Trump who is digging in at the White House with claims his “landslide” victory has been stolen.

“If you lose, you lose,” Trump talked about himself while rallying Georgian voters two days ago. A fair loss would be acceptable, but the manner in which the presidential election was “stolen” from him was not, he said.

Whatever that means, the president-elect will not want to lose Georgia in the senatorial run-offs. The best-case situation is a Democrat win that will smoothen the new government’s key appointments and passages of major legislations. Anything shorter than that, it can be a big nightmare.

Potential problems regarding Cabinet appointments and government-supported bills will look minor if the Republicans win in Georgia and Trump uses that to back his election fraud claims. And with Trump, you’ll never know.

The votes are being counted as of now (Noon, Wednesday, Bangkok time), and it’s a nail-biter.

January 5, 2021: The Alibaba founder has disappeared surreptitiously from public life for at least two months now, in the mid of his serious conflicts with the Chinese authorities, and had better resurface before speculation in both the mainstream and social media grows wilder.

America’s CNN and England’s The Telegraph are among the well-known media that are discussing the “disappearing act”, and Twitter speculation is mounting, too.

One of the world’s best-known, new-age entrepreneurs hasn’t made a public appearance since late October, just before the Chinese authorities blocked an attempt to list an Alibaba financial affiliate, Ant Group, on a stock market. Controversies have centred around Alibaba’s alleged “monopolistic” behaviour and China’s alleged attempt to shrink his empire, created through a business philosophy that some may consider to be too “open” and capitalistic.

January 4, 2021: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has delivered some light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel news, saying the first lot of COVID-19 vaccines could arrive in the country in a matter of weeks, but it would be a very limited number of doses to be used primarily for health personnel.

Vaccine arrivals can trigger vociferous tussles. Politics will almost certainly get in the way as well, as “new highs” in Thailand are causing widespread fears and panic, and the numbers of people and business groups needing vaccines will soon be enormous.

Prayut said Thailand had booked several million doses but has demand an urgent arrival of the first lot due to growing concerns for the human resources in the healthcare sector. The first lot will be around  2 million doses. Judging from Prayut’s words, most of them will be given to health personnel. While politics cannot challenge the policy to strengthen the healthcare sector, the government will likely get glimpses of what to come when more doses arrive.

Facing reporters today, Prayut looked and sounded characteristically testy. He said the government did not want to ban people from travelling across provinces, but admitted that without a clear-cut order, it was difficult to have effective self-isolation.

January 3, 2021: The election victory in Chiang Mai late last month is a cause for Pheu Thai celebration, but its prelude can have a long-lasting, nasty and potentially-explosive consequence for the biggest opposition party.

Everyone knows who is the de facto leader of the Pheu Thai Party, as party members always used Thaksin Shinawatra’s stands to judge or predict how party conflicts would end and what directions the party would take on key issues. That used to go on undisturbed until constitutional rules have been made clear-cut on political parties being prohibited from being influenced by “outsiders”. The extreme penalty if found guilty is party dissolution.

Which is why Thaksin’s successful plea for Chiang Mai to vote for the party’s candidate in last month’s Provincial Administrative Organisation election did not please every party member. Some Pheu Thai leaders have been seeking resignation from executive posts, apparently out of fear a dissolution would spell an end to their parliamentary status, especially in light of official complaints being lodged with election authorities.

Legal and constitutional debate goes like this: Thaksin “interfered” in Chiang Mai election with Facebook posts, cementing Pheu Thai’s need for his presence and influences especially when the going gets tough, critics say. No, the other side argues, Thaksin was not influencing the party. As far as Chiang Mai is concerned, he was just “supporting” a party he thought was good.

Even the term “support” will be controversial, given what political “convicts” can and cannot do. If Thaksin’s Facebook activities were deemed a “campaign” on behalf of the Chiang Mai candidate, the party can be in big, constitutional trouble. The next few days will be intense, regarding the Chiang Mai result and what happens next.

January 2, 2021: Super Poll usually divides political opinions, and it has done so again at the very beginning of the new year. However, it has apparently struck the right chord with the latest finding that most Thais wanted Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to spare nobody as Thailand struggles with an alarming COVID-19 surge.

Another finding is bound to be controversial, showing a big majority of Thais sees him as the leader most fitted for the current crisis. It is this very same majority, though, that warned Prayut he must not carry only a flag, but also a big stick.

“Thais in unison want a leader who does not just wield power, but also really use it,” said Super Poll director Noppadon Kannika. “The prime minister must carry a flag on one hand and a whip on the other.”

That majority was 84.4 % of more than 1,100 people survey between December 29 and January 1.

Other vast majorities want the permanent secretary for interior, the permanent secretary for commerce, the permanent secretary for labour and the national police chief to shape up and be counted. More than 82 % of those surveyed identified the top officials as crucial in creating an atmosphere where important agencies work hard from top to bottom to fight the coronavirus.

January 1, 2021: The coronavirus has immediately picked up where it left off, as humans begin their New Year with new highs, in infection cases, fatalities and hospitalisations all over the world, along with subdued countdowns everywhere. It will be quite a showdown between man-made technology and COVID-19 over the next 12 months.

Overcoming the disease will be human beings’ highest priority in 2021 by a country mile. The trick is that priority must not be blurred by diplomatic or political sideshows that could deceive the world into thinking that they are the genuine priorities. The virus has proved time and again its ability to take advantage of that.