Prawit pours cold water on speculation about Narumon’s role
Tuesday, June 30, 2020: Newly-elected Palang Pracharath leader Prawit Wongsuwan is sounding very vague to say the least on government spokeswoman Naruemon Pinyosinwat’s future role, saying she will oversee “writing of economic policies” but will not be leading implementation.
Naruemon, a Palang Pracharath member, has been subjected to intense political speculation over the past few days after Prawit was named the party’s new leader in a heavily-lopsided leadership restructuring which caused rumours about a revamp of the government’s economic team. But while many believe she was poised for a major Cabinet role, Prawit today said she would only lead mapping of the party’s economic policies.
His apparent attempt to downplay speculation about her future role came as infighting to control the government’s handling of the economy among warring Palang Pracharath factions was intensifying. It was being reported that some Palang Pracharath members viewed Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak’s ultimate economic doctrine as not suitable for Thailand.
Monday, June 29, 2020: The questions about the deteriorating economy, who will oversee it and continued tremors within the ruling Palang Pracharath Party are converging to give Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha arguably the biggest political threat.
Initially, consequences of the dissolution of the Future Forward Party threatened to give Prayut the biggest crisis of his premiership, but the COVID-19 outbreak came along, triggering a state of emergency that helped him politically. Now, threats of major street protests have eased, but the daunting prospects of a COVID-19-effected bad economy and infighting in Palang Pracharath snowballing into one big political disaster are scarily real.
The current economic team of the government is dominated by the former leaders of Palang Pracharath. However, the new executive board of Palang Pracharath is lopsided in favor of those against the party’s old leadership. This has prompted reports, speculation and rumours about the government’s old economic team bowing out and being replaced by those currently in power.
Much will depend on Prayut, who has said he cannot be bargained with but who will have to come up against the kind of pressure that defeated many leaders before him.
Sunday, June 28, 2020: Prawit Wongsuwan, in becoming leader of the Palang Pracharath Party, is a “compromise” choice in the eyes of the warring party factions. His political work, thus, can be based more on the basis of “compromise”, which might put him and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on a collision course, some analysts say.
First disagreement could be over a Cabinet reshuffle, when Prawit’s tendency to “please everybody” might clash with Prayut’s apparently tougher stand on human resource selection, according to the analysts.
Both men have obviously known about horse-trading being an integral part of Thai “democracy”, but to different degrees. Prayut can be more “uncompromising” than Prawit regarding human resources. With Palang Pracharath being a hotpot of politicians coming from different origins, some names proposed by Prawit may worry or even upset Prayut.
And this is not to mention the fact that Prayut did not have to worry about Palang Pracharath backing him as prime minister earlier. Former party leader Uttama Savanayana could not match Prayut in terms of clout. The same can’t be said about Prawit.
Saturday, June 27, 2020: Celebrity idol Sean Buranahiran has been unfairly treated by people who should have known better after he posted a video calling Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan a nice guy, several critics have said.
What Sean did was not a crime, his defenders said. They pointed out that all he did was making a comment that Prawit whom he had come to know as a person was different from Prawit portrayed by some, influenced by the media. The defenders felt that Sean, who had joined Prawit in a reforestation event and basically said you should not believe everything the media told you, was subjected to online “bullying” and “witch-hunt” in a campaign which should have been against this kind of practices.
Sean’s online accounts have been flooded with angry and rude remarks and a great many people unfollowed him.
Those who called themselves “liberals” are not supposed to bully a man simply because he expressed his opinion on a personal encounter with someone many people do not like, the critics said.
Academic Seri Wongmontha said if rudely degrading those who have different opinions was democracy, he did not like it. Seri noted that anyone helping or taking part in government work had been “harassed” by one side in the political divide. Journalist and writer Pliew Si-ngern deplored what he deemed was a witch-hunt Sean had had to go through.
Friday, June 26, 2020: Football is not a matter of life and death, a well-known late British coach used to say. “It’s much more serious than that.”
That statement by late Liverpool legend Bill Shankly proved true, at least for today, when the online world is comprehensively dominated by news about the Liverpool Football Club winning the Premier League title for the first time in 30 years and all related developments. Thailand, where leading militant political activists had the Supreme Court confirm their jail terms, is no exception. In fact, Thailand’s social media is among those most overshadowed by Liverpool-related posts or uploads.
Liverpool’s victory was easily trending on Twitter, in Thailand and abroad. Pictures, videos, boasting and mockery flooded all major online platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. “I had to initiate talks about something else, but nobody cared,” said a well-known Thai journalist whose online accounts became all-Liverpool.
“Prawit and Sean should thank Liverpool,” one person said on Facebook, referring to an uproar earlier this week caused by online influencer Sean Buranahiran’s praises for Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan. This political news, which had seemed hot before Liverpool were confirmed champions, gave way like many other reports on Thai politics.
Thursday, June 25, 2020: A celebrity and online influencer has learned the hard way why he should steer clear of politics, and probably Prawit Wongsuwan in particular.
Sean Buranahiran, a well-known YouTuber, rapper and online influencer, has come under fire after expressing his admiration for Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan. He called on his followers not to totally believe in news reports or commentaries about Prawit, who the man said is a “really nice guy”.
Sean recently joined a re-forestation event, “Climate Festival @North” in Chiang Mai. Prawit, the Palang Pracharath Party’s chief strategist who is not very popular among one side of the Thai political divide, also participated.
After the event, Sean posted a video clip on his social media, saying how he admired Prawit, who he insisted came across as a nice person, different from what was said in some media outlets. Sean asked his followers not to judge a book by its cover but many of them did not just fail to listen, but also unfollowed him.
Several hundred thousands deserted his online accounts but millions of others still remained. A campaign for more desertions, however, was still going on.
Wednesday, June 24, 2020: Warong Dechgitvigrom explained that his decision to leave the Action Coalition for Thailand Party was meant to get a freer hand in pushing his political agenda, but his move raised serious questions about the state of affairs in the government bloc.
Warong had just left the Democrat Party and joined the Action Coalition for Thailand Party for the exact reason. He then said he wanted to be “freer” in playing an aggressive role against politicians he claimed were drumming up a “Hate Thailand” cultism.
His departure from the Action Coalition for Thailand Party came hot on the heels of the resignation of Chatumongol Sonakul as the party leader. The party is known to have been closely associated with the “Whistle mob” which led mass protests against the Yingluck government before the 2014 coup.
Warong said he had informed Suthep Thaugsuban, the party’s de facto patriarch, that being in a political party restricted attempts to find allies and carry out some major activities.
Tuesday, June 23, 2020: A few years ago, they were a force to be reckoned with. Today, Thaksin Shinawatra-backing villages are struggling hard to keep hold on their political fame, with leaders continuing to join “the other side”, willingly or not.
The latest such leaders is Anon Saennan, a key founder of red-shirted villages. He has reportedly reunited with other big-name pro-Thaksin community chiefs on the government camp. A news report said that red-shirted villages, which are being renamed “Community Enterprise villages”, will be actively promoted by Anon, on a door-to-door method he used when founding the pro-Thaksin villages, when the COVID-19 crisis is deemed to have completely gone.
Anon has been meeting Suporn Attawong, a former red-shirted leader now serving the government, the report said.
Anon’s reported departure will test the claims of “once a red, always a red, leader or no leader.”
Monday, June 22, 2020: “I can’t be bargained with” was Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s response to growing Cabinet reshuffle speculation. It was a tough stand that would be mocked if he failed to maintain it, but would go a long way toward changing an unhealthy political tradition if he succeeded in keeping it.
He said he had not thought about changing the Cabinet lineup, although the Palang Pracharath Party’s executive board had resigned en masse amid a power struggle at the highest level and the Action Coalition for Thailand Party also needs a new leader.
Traditionally, holders of parties’ biggest posts are also given Cabinet positions, a highly-questionable practice that many times has denied the Thai public the most qualified persons to oversee major state affairs. Today, Prayut suggested he would ignore conventional horse trading which normally involved threats to pull out support for the government.
“(Factional) politics shall not be dragged into national administration,” Prayut said, when asked about Cabinet reshuffle speculation. He added that politicians must not come together merely to increase their bargaining power when they wanted something. “I can’t be bargained with,” he reiterated.
Sunday, June 21, 2020: Thais hate politicians fighting for positions. A recent opinion poll has confirmed how much.
Super Poll surveyed 1,539 Thais over the past few days, and more than 91 per cent said the worst example by adults to the younger generations is the fighting for positions. This surpassed even betrayal or murders.
Almost the same percentage said it’s “extremely bad” for politicians to fight and jockey for positions, ignoring what’s best for the country in the process.
Saturday, June 20, 2020: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has vowed “new normal” politics, and what transpires in his political amnesty push and imminent Cabinet reshuffle will show how far that much-taunted promise can go.
Thailand’s main political focus is becoming clearer now, with all eyes on the possibility of leadership changes at the Palang Pracharath Party which will almost certainly warrant a Cabinet reshuffle, and the idea to give “political” convicts, barring those ruled by the court to have been corrupt, an amnesty.
The Democrats and many others have pledged to resist an amnesty that would benefit Thaksin Shinawatra and those convicted of corruption. But generally, Prayut’s plan to give his much-mocked “reconciliation” agenda another nudge by proposing a political amnesty programme, which could begin with a new law at the end of the year, has been guardedly welcomed.
Probably harder is how to achieve a “new normal” Cabinet reshuffle, which has become a matter of “when”, not “if”, following the resignation of M.R. Chatu Mongol Sonakul as leader of the Action Coalition for Thailand Party.
Unhealthy Thai political tradition calls for automatic allocation of Cabinet posts to party leaders, no matter how many more qualified candidates are available. Horse-trading, if succeeded, let governments survive, many times at the expense of the public. If it failed, seeds of government collapse were sowed.
Friday, June 19, 2020: One of the best news this year has been given by the World Health Organisation. The international body has said that hundreds of millions of doses of coronavirus vaccine hopefully can be produced this year and 2 billion doses by the end of 2021.
Chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan’s statement has calmed down realistic fears that workable vaccine would never come this year, and vaccination discovery next year would be the best the world could hope for. But she said the WHO now is drawing up plans to help decide who should get the first doses once a vaccine is approved this year.
Priority would be given to frontline workers such as medics, those who are vulnerable because of age or other illness, and those who work or live in high-transmission settings such as prisons and care homes, Reuters reported.
She was expressing big hope, and her confidence did not sound definite, however.
“I’m hopeful, I’m optimistic. But vaccine development is a complex undertaking, it comes with a lot of uncertainty,” she was quoted by Reuters as saying. “The good thing is, we have many vaccines and platforms so even if the first one fails, or the second ones fails, we shouldn’t lose hope, we shouldn’t give up.”
Around 10 potential vaccines are now reportedly undergoing trials in humans, in the hope that a shot to prevent infection can become available in coming months. Countries have already begun making deals with pharmaceutical companies to order doses, even before any vaccines have been proven to work, it’s reported.
It has to be noted that Swaminathan described the ambition for hundreds of millions of doses this year as “optimistic”, and the hope for up to 2 billion doses of up to three different vaccines next year as a “big if”. Yet the fact that a senior WHO official like her has come out to express such strong optimism is encouraging.
Thursday, June 18, 2020: After Huawei, COVID-19, Hong Kong, and all the talks about trade sanctions, now this. According to American President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, the US leader secretly urged Beijing to help him win re-election.
John Bolton claimed in his new book that Trump personally asked his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to help him win the 2020 US presidential race by undermining the credit of his opponent. CNN, whose anti-Trump stand has grown more belligerent with each passing day, has obtained a copy of the book.
“Bolton bombshells” screamed a CNN website headline. “Trump asked Xi for re-election help and told him to keep building concentration camps.”
The book spilled a lot of beans on the US international dealings and accused Trump of saying one thing publicly and another privately.
“The allegation that Trump asked the leader of a major US adversary to help him win the next election will reverberate across Washington six months after Trump was impeached on charges he sought help from Ukraine with his reelection bid,” CNN said. “Trump openly asked China to investigate his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden last year, and has refused to accept the conclusion of US intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to try to help him win.”
On Hong Kong, Trump allegedly told China his country did not want to get involved. On China’s alleged mass detention of Uyghur Muslims, Trump allegedly told Beijing to go ahead and build concentration camps.
In public, Trump wants to look tough on China. He reportedly plans to attack Biden’s “soft” stand. The book does not back it up, and the White House has tried to block the content. A legal battle is continuing.
Wednesday, June 17, 2020: Why the world should be worried about this week’s skirmish between Indian and Chinese troops at their Himalayan border? Analytical watchers have cited the following reasons:
- Both countries are nuclear superpowers, although the Monday night clash which left 20 Indian soldiers killed involved only old-fashioned spartan weapons.
- It was the countries’ first clash with casualties in nearly half a century.
- Their problematic border, where many things can go wrong, is more than 2 miles long
- World politics of which both countries are big parts can aggravate tension.
- Local politics, particularly in India, can really complicate the situation.
Tuesday, June 16, 2020: Anek Laothamatas and Warong Dechgitvigrom are front-running candidates to replace M.R. Chatu Mongol Sonakul as leader of the Action Coalition for Thailand Party.
Labour Minister M.R. Chatu Mongol Sonakul has resigned as leader of the party. While the resignation technically does not affect his Cabinet status, ministerial change is also likely due to the long-standing tradition of giving every party leader that joins the government a Cabinet position. The Labour Ministry is the quota of the five-MP party.
M.R. Chatu Mongkol, 76, a former governor of the Bank of Thailand, just became the leader of the party shortly before the 2019 general election. His party resignation would make the prime minister’s headache, which followed mass resignations from the executive board of the Palang Pracharath Party, bigger.
Monday, June 15, 2020: We know something is not quite right when Vladimir Putin teaches America about democratic principles.
Whether the teaching, published by a few world media outlets this week, was out of sympathy or cynicism is another matter.
To cut a long interview shot, Putin said that while rights of African-Americans should be better respected, things have been harder than they should have been because of divisive politics.
America’s “longstanding” problem with racism, Putin said, had aggravated a deep crisis of legitimacy that “we have been observing for a long time.” Instead of accepting that Trump “obviously won in an absolutely democratic way,” supporters of Hillary Clinton “came up with all sorts of fables to cast doubt on his legitimacy,” he said.
In effect, Putin was telling Trump’s rivals to accept the rules of the game and move on. But the Russian leader’s move might be interpreted as an attempt to help Trump, thus amplifying doubts about “Russia’s role” in the 2016 US presidential election.
American intelligence agencies suspected Russian meddling in the 2016 vote and concluded in January 2018 that “Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.” Russia, of course, denied the allegation.
On the racial tension which has weakened America’s moral authority on the world stage, Putin said he always had “lots of sympathy for the fight of African-Americans for their natural rights.” But, he insisted, when protests “turn into mayhem and pogroms, I see nothing good for the country.”
In a related development, some world history watchers on Russian television said America could be experiencing a Russian lesson. “This is their perestroika,” said Vladimir Solovyov, the host of a Sunday night talk show, referring to the chaotic process of reform that Mikhail S. Gorbachev began in the mid-1980s and thus provoked extreme radicalism and nationalism. Gorbachev’s goal was to revive the Soviet Union, but it backfired massively.
Sunday, June 14, 2020: There have been no official acts elsewhere yet in response to China’s fresh COVID-19 situation, but the world media and international health officials have been increasingly alarmed by threats of resurgence in a country where it all apparently began.
China has reported what was said to be the highest rise in new local coronavirus cases after the country seemed to have it virtually under control. The Chinese situation will certainly prompt many countries to have a second thought on scales of reopening.
What’s happening in China will amplify the World Health Organization’s warning that the deadly virus is far from done, and everyone’s guards should remain tight.
Information related to Beijing infections is unsettling. Three of the four infected people worked at the Beijing Xinfadi Market, while one made several visits to the market to buy food. It’s a normal and apparently not risky lifestyle or activity.
Saturday, June 13, 2020: After the Palang Pracharath, Democrat and Pheu Thai parties have been rocked by reports or rumours of internal fighting and betrayal, the Move Forward Party is not to be outdone.
The reincarnation of the dissolved Future Forward Party has reportedly become very uneasy with an unconfirmed story of party members having a friendly yet secret meal with Pheu Thai’s big wig Sudarat Keyuraphan. Those who allegedly met Sudarat a few days ago had not notified their party bosses in advance despite clear rules against such secrecy, causing serious frustration and anger among Move Forward leaders, mainstream news outlets reported.
Participants at the alleged meeting were said to be Bangkok MPs. The get-together sparked wild rumours not just in Move Forward, but also Pheu Thai, which has been rattled by all kinds of speculation concerning senior party figures lately.
This could turn out to be another bump in the Pheu Thai-Move Forward relations. The former used to accuse the latter of trying to “steal” its popular base in the capital during last year’s general election.
Friday, June 12, 2020: It could be arguably the biggest political act in sports in years. All Premier League players have agreed to wear shirts with a ‘Black Lives Matter’ badge on the front and on the back for the first round of matches of the English football’s restart next week.
Celebrities in sports have campaigned personally or in small groups against racism in America, but next week could see footballers in a rarely-seen united front.
The shirt tribute is yet to be totally confirmed or endorsed, leaving room for a last-minute change of heart. The idea was advocated by a group of Premier League captains and Professional Footballers’ Association representatives, with moves under way to ensure kit is prepared appropriately. One club told the media that their kit staff had been primed to order shirts reflecting that change.
It has been announced that Premier League clubs agreed a #BlackLivesMatter badge will be displayed on the front of match-day shirts alongside an #NHS badge honouring health service workers. For the 1st round of games, player names will be removed from the back of shirts & replaced with Black Lives Matter.
There were talks among clubs earlier this week about acknowledging the worldwide show of support for the deceased George Floyd who died in Minneapolis at the hands of the police, with the league eager to send a united message. While campaigns against racism have been common in football, the American issue has become somewhat political, affecting the upcoming presidential election in the United States and greatly complicating America’s global status when human rights are concerned.
Premier League, the most followed football in the world, is due to restart in just under a week from now, with Man City vs Arsenal and Aston Villa and Sheffield United opening the proceedings on June 17. The rest of the league will follow suit from Friday, June 19.
All games will be broadcast live and the numbers of global audience are expected to be staggering.
Thursday, June 11, 2020: Donald Trump and his rival Joe Biden hope to emerge victorious in a US presidential race which will shape the order of a new world, and much will depend on who navigates the interwoven issues of the coronavirus, the impacted economy, and widespread anti-racism sentiment better.
Until very recently, a prevailing theory was that if a vaccine is developed by the United States under his presidency, and if the American public blame his anti-reopening rivals for a bad economy, Trump can pull off another big political miracle and win a second term. But now he will have to minimize or control political damage caused by the death of George Floyd as well.
Trump is to hold his first re-election campaign rally for several months in Tulsa, Oklahoma on the date that African Americans celebrate the end of slavery.
The rally will take place on 19 June, known as “Juneteenth”. In 1921 the city of Tulsa was the site of one of the worst massacres of black people in US history.
Weeks of anti-racism protests have put the United States under Trump’s rule in a bad light regarding human rights and racism, but the Trump campaign, referring to the date of the rally, said his Republican Party was proud of its role in winning the Civil War and ending slavery. However, the Democrats will have something of its own to say, not least how Trump had reacted to protests that sought “justice” for George Floyd.
Wednesday, June 10, 2020: With Palang Pracharath in turmoil, now is not a good time for Pheu Thai to create an impression of disunity of its own, members of the biggest opposition party said during a meeting this week.
Pheu Thai has been hit by speculation that several key members were planning to set up a new party, but whispers of concern has grown into open expression of worries this week. What has been unclear is whether the rumoured defections were tactical _ a “satellite” strategy like the formation of the now-defunct Thai Raksachat Party _ or there have been genuine rifts.
The speculation was openly discussed at a Pheu Thai meeting on June 9, with key members openly expressing opinions on the matter and some criticising the potential defectors. Watana Muangsook, for example, said it was understandable some senior figures might want to leave the party because Pheu Thai is in a great constitutional disadvantage when it comes to calculating the number of party-list MPs, but “negative things being said about Pheu Thai are uncalled for.”
MP Chaowalit Witchayasut said party supporters have been sending online messages voicing concern about the speculation and calling for a projection of unity.
Another MP, Paijit Sriworakhan, said northeastern Pheu Thai MPs have been hurt by comments against them from others within the party.
A few other MPs, some of whom have been with Thaksin Shinawatra’s political camp from the very beginning, said the current situation was unprecedented and worrisome.
Worried or disgruntled members were asked to open up their minds and say everything at the meeting so they can avoid saying anything about it outside the party.
Tuesday, June 9, 2020: Bad news from one of the most reliable sources, while largely expected, can feel extraordinarily bad. The World Bank has confirmed that the vast majority of human beings on earth will experience a bad economy they have never experienced before.
For many, it will be a “World War bad”.
In rich countries, economic activity is expected to decline by seven per cent, and that is if the situation does not deteriorate. The COVID-19 outbreak has severely disrupted domestic demand and supply, trade and finance activities, and will continue to do so.
Incomes will fall sharply, extreme poverty will affect a larger population than anticipated.
Emerging market and developing economies are due to shrink by 2.5 per cent – their first contraction as a group in at least 60 years. Per capita incomes, meanwhile, are forecast to fall by 3.6 per cent – enough to push millions more into extreme poverty.
“Current estimates show that 60 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty in 2020 (and) these estimates are likely to rise further, with the reopening of advanced economies the primary determinant”, said World Bank Group President, David Malpass.
Hardest hit are those countries where the pandemic has been most severe and which rely heavily on global trade, tourism, commodity exports and external financing, the World Bank’s report said.
“This is a deeply sobering outlook, with the crisis likely to leave long-lasting scars and pose major global challenges,” said Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, the World Bank Group’s Vice President for Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions.
Monday, June 8, 2020: Will the United States keep hold of its global leadership? Or will China replace it or at least have a bigger role to play internationally? Thaksin Shinawatra will have a say in that during an online panel discussion this week.
He will be among 7 panelists to participate in “The post-COVID-19 World: Is the Coronavirus pandemic reshaping the global order?” online forum on June 11, about 7 pm Thailand time. The other participants include a former Singaporean foreign minister and a former US ambassador to Singapore.
The topic has divided analysts’ opinions around the world. Some think wars, not diseases, dictate the global pulses, saying that despite the numbers of people killed by past outbreaks outstripping World War casualties, military power often shaped the world order. Others say the United States has been on an unfamiliar territory therefore historical data is irrelevant.
Sunday, June 7, 2020: The approval rating for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has increased noticeably from his half-year mark as leader in a democratic system, according to the latest NIDA poll.
A total of 1,250 Thais were surveyed between June 1 and 2. This period marks Prayut’s first full year as leader after Thailand returned to a civil rule.
NIDA said that when a similar survey was done six months ago, 8.82% thought Prayut’s work was “very good”. That has increased to 15.92% now.
Six months ago, 30.13% thought he was “considerably good”, compared with 35.60% now.
Those who thought he was “very bad” six months ago amounted to 33.72%. The number is 20.48% now.
A slight increase is noted in the “considerably bad” category, with 25.98% recorded then, compared with 27.44% now.
COVID-19 apparently has something to do with it.
Saturday, June 6, 2020: When it rains, it pours. Before COVID-19, the United States was struggling to keep hold of its economic champion status thanks to the rise of China. After the disease finally arrived, it raised serious doubts about the American technological sophistication. Now, it’s moral authority’s turn.
The death of George Floyd and its ugly consequences have made the job of US diplomats around the world as preachers of social and political morality much harder, it has been reported. The negativity and mistrust, it’s said, is here to stay.
In a CNN analysis published today, America has a mountain to climb if it is to restore the moral status quo.
An important question has been raised, according to CNN: Is the US still the world’s moral guardian?
“This week, at least, the answer is a resounding No,” the network said.
The gloomy review of the US situation coincided with the unabated popularity of a viral documentary video, titled “Out of shadows”, which accused unknown powers in America of manipulating the media and movie industry to propagate morality, which they don’t really believe in, for evil gains.
Friday, June 5, 2020: One political cartoon has made one side in the divided Thai politics quite angry, and it deals with the on-going problems in the United States following the death of George Floyd and police action against protesters.
The cartoon in the Manager depicts those who often talked about human rights in Thailand and their supposed reaction _ or lack thereof _ to the US situation.
One Thai journalist who has been very critical of the Thai military’s role in politics decried the cartoon by saying that at least snipers and M16 assault rifles were not being used in America. A female political activist said the cartoon could only work with “those with shallow thoughts.”
The American situation is threatening to turn the tide when the “moral authority” concerning human rights is concerned, with several US diplomats being quoted in world media as saying that the George Floyd death and its consequences are making their jobs of preaching moral right and wrong a lot harder.
Meanwhile, a reported disappearance of a Thai activist, Wanchalearm Satsaksit, in Phnom Penh seems to be triggering a flurry of political activities in Thailand that included a peaceful gathering, plans for more, and a lot of comments from his allies. Wanchalerm was rumoured to have been kidnapped in front of a condominium.
Wanchalearm was reportedly involved with the Yingluck administration’s publicity work during the pre-coup massive anti-government protests. He became an anti-government activist after the coup and then fled Thailand after his online activities were deemed to have violated the computer act.
Thursday, June 4, 2020: A serious power struggle is going on at Palang Pracharat. That is obvious. What is less certain is which side will win.
Without really describing the real qualities of the two rival camps, one of them is called “Hawkish” and the other the “Strategist.” The “Hawkish” side is primarily Prawit Wongsuwan (defence minister and deputy prime minister), Suriya Juangroongruangkit (industry minister) and Somsak Thepsutin (justice minister). The “Strategists” are Somkid Jatusripitak (deputy prime minister), Uttama Savanayana (finance minister) and Sontirat Sontijirawong (energy minister).
The power struggle has led to the party’s executive board being collapsed, and the circumstances before, during and after the setting up of the new one will not be pretty.
How will the story end? Watchers think there are four possible scenarios. The first one has the Hawkish take over the party leadership while the Strategist get the party secretary-general post. The second scenario is vice versa. These two “compromise” scenarios will likely allow Palang Pracharat to go on.
The third scenario has the Hawkish completely take over the new executive board. The fourth one has the Strategist maintain its dominance in the new board. These two scenarios could break the ruling party apart with defections.
Wednesday, June 3, 2020: Donald Trump is taking a page from a particular book, and it’s not the one in his hand, said critics of the US president amid the on-going #BlackLivesMatter protests spreading across America and in some other places.
Simply put, although Trump publicly held a closed Bible to display religious faith during a crisis, he is doing everything he has copied from the “How to be a dictator” textbook, the critics said.
In other words, Trump’s threats to shoot rioters or use the military to help quell what he deemed an unrest were, in the critics’ eyes, dictatorial and political, not religious.
Standing in front of the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church as the scent of a chemical irritant hung in the air, President Trump posed silently for photos, holding a closed Bible slightly above his head as reporters shouted questions. It looked like a politically-driven move for the cameras rather than real efforts to handle the domestic crisis, said a Washington Post writer, who noted how “rarely” the leader visited churches becoming president.
With Twitter flagging his tweets and problems probably emerging with Facebook, Trump’s Bible comfort makes sense. But to a certain extent only. Faith leaders were more puzzled than impressed, and at least one White House employee, who did not give name for good reasons, said the sight of the Bible-holding event and its publicity was “sickening.”
Tuesday, June 2, 2020: Serena Williams. Floyd Mayweather. Macus Rashford. Jadon Sancho. Nike. Liverpool. Chelsea. The names are just a fraction in a growing global list of athletes, sporting institutions, product makers and key sponsors of sporting events who have campaigned against racism and are being saddened by what happened to George Floyd.
At a training session, all Liverpool players took a knee around the centre circile of Anfield. Shancho celebrated one of his goals by taking off his team shirt to reveal a T-shirt with a message “Justice for George Floyd”. Mayweather has promised to pay for George Floyd’s funeral services. Chelsea has turned its website into black and white, leaving out all other colours. Rashford has been tweeting condolences and calling for “unity” and “equality”.
George Floyd and angry American protests are captivating the global sport community, despite warnings that it’s a place where politics must be forbidden.
America is “gift-wrapping propaganda win for China”, a usually pro-US news website said in a headline. China is grappling with its own mega issue of Hong Kong, but the American protests also underlined serious human rights problems in the “Land of the Free”.
The website did not belittle the gestures of worldwide athletes and the news outlet’s apparent motive is a dig at President Donald Trump. who has fanned the flames of American anger with his belligerent messages toward rioting protesters.
Monday, June 1, 2020: Despite his insistence today that whatever is happening in Palang Pracharat does not concern him and the Cabinet’s future, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is facing an immense challenge posed by the mass resignation of the ruling party’s executive board.
Unhealthy Thai political tradition dictates that every party leader and party secretary-general must sit in the Cabinet if their camp is in a coalition government. This means that no matter what Prayut said today in the wake of the mass resignation, the new leader and secretary-general of Palang Pracharat must have places in Prayut’s ministerial line-up if the current leader and secretary-general fail to return to the new board.
Unless Prayut is serious about reforming Thai politics, that is.
Sunday, May 31, 2020: Third-world countries may have been familiar with hard-hitting western media coverage of their internal affairs for a long time already, but The Washington Post thought Americans might not be accustomed to it. Therefore, an outstanding article has been put in to let readers have glimpses of what would have been like if the George Floyd issue happened outside the United States.
The article was titled “How Western media would cover Minneapolis if it happened in another country”.
It began with a disclaimer: If we talked about what is happening in Minneapolis the same way we talk about events in a foreign country, here’s how the Western media would cover it. The quotes and those “quoted” in the piece below are fictional.
The article said Donald Trump oversees a “regime” that shows no respect for human rights and has been discriminating against black and other minority people for decades. Political and human rights situations have been “deteriorating” while supposedly influential outsiders could not do anything about it.
“Fictional” academic quotes said the current racial crisis was a result of “decades of abuse and impunity”. Everyone was distracted by and politicized the COVID-19 outbreak, with Trump, “who once called African nations ‘shithole countries” now taking a page from African dictators who spread bogus health remedies”.
The article mentioned asylum talks for black Americans and efforts by foreign activists as well as organizations to help the sufferers, who have long been backbones of the American economy but have been mistreated all along, either through supportive funding or awareness raising.
One fictional expert was quoted as saying that England was increasingly worried and was wondering if America would ever manage to “govern itself properly” and “tribal politics” would one day prevail.
Saturday, May 30, 2020: Maybe every political rookie wouldn’t do what Donald Trump did amid America’s latest extreme racial tension, and everyone knew what was to come. If Trump also knew that, Americans have got themselves a very bold president. If not, Americans ought to be worried.
The US president’s tweet saying “When looting starts, the shooting starts” looked when it was first seen like surefire throwing of gasoline onto the fire, and it is. Twitter, which has publicly put a caution on his earlier tweet condemning mail-in voting, has taken action again about the “shooting” tweet. This time, Twitter flagged it as a possible violation of a rule against glorifying violence.
As racial protests, some of which have been fiery, spread across America with angry people discarding social distancing completely, so does criticism against the shooting tweet. Outcries against it featured in many US newspapers and mainstream news websites.
Announcing tough measures against China over the Hong Kong issue does not help Trump much, as his voters’ focus is firmly on the death of George Floyd now.
Friday, May 29, 2020: America now faces a crucial two-pronged battle _ against COVID-19 and renewed racial trouble which is threatening to spread violence on a scale barely seen lately.
As of now, national guards could be used to directly confront rioting in the city of Minneapolis, which has resulted in, among key damage, fire at a police station. The violence followed the killing of an unarmed black man who had looked subdued following his arrest related to reported use of counterfeit money.
Protests spread across Minnesota and the country, following the death of George Floyd, who was shown on video being pinned to the ground by a white police officer who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was unarmed and handcuffed, pleaded that he could not breathe. He was declared dead at a nearby hospital soon after, according to authorities. The case refuelled anger over constant maltreatment of suspects who are not white, and US President Donald Trump has, in the words of a CNN commentator, thrown “gasoline onto the fire” by tweeting that “When looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Thursday, May 28, 2020: The money-laundering case against Thaksin Shinawatra’s son seems to have been ended for good, with the prosecutors reportedly deciding not to appeal against a court ruling that acquitted him months ago.
In November, the Criminal Court acquitted Panthongtae Shinawatra of charges of money laundering involving a 10-million baht cheque, transferred to his bank account over 15 years ago by Mr Vichai Krisdathanon, then a top executive of the Krisdamahanakorn real estate group.
Panthongtae’s case was part of a larger loan scandal that has landed some top bankers in jail and took place while his father was prime minister.
The Criminal Court ruled that the prosecution evidence was not sufficient to prove that Panthongtae, who was then only 26 years old, was aware that the check transferred to his bank account had any relation to a large, suspicious loan granted to the company by the state-run Krung Thai Bank.
The prosecution headquarters has reportedly decided not to appeal against that, despite earlier reports to the contrary, meaning the on-and-off Panthongtae case looks to have been ended permanently.
Wednesday, May 27, 2020: America’s pre-election politics is lurching from puzzling to ludicrous. The latest incident has confounded even the regular watchers of Donald Trump’s war against the mainstream media, his use of and occasional outburst against the social media and will surely crank up the issue of “freedom of expression” by a notch.
A post by him has been given a fact-check label by Twitter, his main political weapon, for the very first time.
He tweeted: “There is NO WAY (ZERO) that Mail-in Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent.” …
Twitter invoked its new policy on misleading information and put a warning label under that.
Mail-in voting has divided opinions in America, and Trump has been at the forefront of those claiming cheaters must be drooling. His tweet was seen as his strongest statement against the method to date.
Twitter’s notification displays a blue exclamation mark underneath that tweet of Trump and a subsequent tweet, suggesting readers “get the facts about mail-in ballots”.
In other words, Twitter warns it could be “fake news”, something Trump has been purportedly fighting against.
After Twitter’s action, the US president tweeted again, this time saying the social media giant “is completely stifling free speech.”
Is Twitter showing its independence? Or is it doing something that it ethically and politically shouldn’t have done? Different people will think differently. And as the US election draws nearer, there will be more to think about, not least the question of who can ever be trusted.
Tuesday, May 26, 2020: Supporters of the Pheu Thai Party certainly must be wanting a more clear-cut answer from Phumtham Wechayachai when he was asked if he and a few friends, all of whom are known to be close to Thaksin Shinawatra, were planning to form a new party.
When he was asked about that in a media interview earlier this week, he said something like “We don’t know the future, do we?”, “We (my friends and I) haven’t talked about it”, and “When the country is hopeless, anything can happen if people who are worried about the situation come together to talk.”
He could have just said “No”.
The other part of the interview concerned his criticism of the Prayut government, but, as a senior opposition figure, that was expected. What was not was his failure to squash the “new party” rumours once and for all.
The rumours revolved around the setting up of the “Care” group, which brought him and the likes of Pongsak Ruktapongpisal, Prommin Lertsuridej and Surapong Suebwonglee together, purportedly to discuss major national problems. The four were at the top tier of the Thaksin political empire and are said to still be close to the man in Dubai, making their moves all the more interesting.
Monday, May 25, 2020: The old “Cold War” was shoved down everyone’s throat, dividing the world into “Us or Them” whether ordinary people liked it or not. The “New Cold War”, the possibility of which has been officially raised by China, which accuses the United States of going too far in attempts to maintain its economic and political clouts, will be more complicated.
With wealth being less influential in setting democracy or capitalism apart from other ideologies, and with the world’s populations getting more access to information, the “New Cold War” would be more about trust, something China is trying to build and America struggling to keep, analysts say.
Europe, it is said, is getting increasingly uneasy about America’s leadership, which has threatened the medical status quo during the on-going COVID-19 crisis, and about the possibility of that leadership continuing to hold sway, would not be a surefire, totally obedient follower of Washington. How Europe treats Huawei, which America claims would endanger world security but seems to have personal agendas against, will go a long way towards determining the intensity of the possible “New Cold War.”
In a recent global survey, the majority of people in Russia and America’s close neighbour, Mexico, trusts China more. The Middle East and Africa also view Beijing quite favourably. In Asia, pro-American sentiment is strong in South Korea, the Philippines and India.
“Conspiracy videos” _ or some may call “Truth videos” _ are rampant on YouTube and have been shared and translated wildly. Almost all of them tell shocking stories about America while China faces far less scrutiny. Whereas the old “Cold War” had virtually all to do with world governments, the new one can be more about public trust and less about what political leaders say, according to the analysts.
Sunday, May 24, 2020: To be fair, Donald Trump could never have won. Wearing a mask during a visit to an auto plant and he would have been booed and jeered left and right. It would have been the same for not wearing it.
This is election campaign time. This is politics. The issue of whether he should wear a mask during his visit to a Ford auto plant on Thursday had thus been highly political and had little to do with genuine medical concern.
To be fair, again, Trump started it, having refused to wear a mask all along as a symbol of defiance against COVID-19 and as a “proof” to his downplaying of the disease. It was all fine until he had to visit the Michigan plant, whose mask policy was very strict. Simply put, would you visit a vegetarian family bringing chicken rice?
There was no sensible solution for Trump. He appeared before journalists’ cameras not wearing it, but he briefly wore it in private during the visit. Did it make sense? Medically, No. Politically, it might be as good as it gets.
“I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,” he was quoted as saying. Whether he said that beforehand or afterwards was not immediately clear.
Saturday, May 23, 2020: A video clip featuring jailed TV news host Sorrayuth Suthassanachinda talking about how unlikely it was for inmates to get infected and how measures were in place to check and quarantine those who were has helped prevent panic in Thai prisons, reports say.
The clip, the production process of which involved prisoners exclusively, was broadcast in prisons nationwide after it was made in March and was said to be one of the reasons why inmates were not overly worried about the pandemic, it was reported.
In the clip, Sorrayuth, serving a jailed term for fraudulently getting advertisement money his media company did not deserve, pointed out that prisoners did not meet anybody and those found positive were immediately quarantined. Chances of infections in prisons were, therefore, virtually “impossible”, he said, asking all inmates not to believe in rumours that would make them “feel depressed for nothing.”
He also got to interview the head of the Corrections Department. This was also made available for prisoners to see.
Sorrayuth is allowed to do occasional news clips, as the fact that the crew of “Stories behind walls” are all inmates suits the policy of teaching prisoners professional skills, it was reported.
Friday, May 22, 2020: Pheu Thai leader Sompong Amornwiwat has all but confirmed that his is the latest political camp facing major uncertainties due to simmering discontent and rumours of defections.
The Palang Pracharat Party is said to be embroiled in a leadership power play. The Democrat Party has been hit by key defections and might lose more outstanding members. The Future Forward Party has been dissolved, and whereas some hardcore members have proclaimed that the dissolution “is in name only”, the loss of its parliamentary teeth is for real and defections could not be ruled out.
Today, Sompong described as “normal” reported attempts by some in Thaksin Shinawatra’s political camp to form a new party. He noted that camp members going separate ways had happened before, and the circumstances before the last general election were a good example.
Asked if the reported defection plan had anything to do with possible decrease in the camp’s popularity, Sompong said: “Nothing. People can say what they want. In reality, many things have to be taken into account.”
Thursday, May 21, 2020: The World Health Organization has warned that widespread hunger and poverty will feature in future historians’ accounts of the COVID-19 crisis.
“What’s remarkable is the speed with which people just experience extreme poverty when they’re asked to reduce economic activity, so as to limit the spread of the virus,” WHO’s special envoy on COVID-19, David Nabarro, has told the BBC.
“I’ve heard of communities all over Asia, as well as in Africa and Latin America where that level of extreme hunger has built up fast, and I suppose what we are going to see when the story of the pandemic is written [is] that this leads to increases in levels of poverty and malnutrition like we’ve not seen for many decades.”
Wednesday, May 20, 2020: Government priorities and policies must switch post-COVID-19 if Thailand’s economy is to survive, and the time of “too big to fall” is over, according to a leading Thai economist.
Narong Petchprasert, who heads the Economics Institute of the Rangsit University, said economic strengths of households will be deadly important and the government must take that into account while prioritizing its budgets as well as efforts.
It is a serious call, which looks simple only on the surface. While every single politician claims he or she works for the people, the reality is that “rescue”, “projects” or “auctions” are often conducted or conceived with big corporates’ interests in view. They consume the state’s money, efforts and time, and occupy politicians’ mindsets.
The looming trade war between the United States and China would cripple the world’s economy, which is currently near rock bottom already, making self-reliance all the more important, Narong said.
“Countries will save their own markets for their own goods. It will be a red ocean for every export,” he said. “This will mean domestic markets will get increasingly important, and domestic markets can only do well when households do well.”
“Throughout the years, when we talked about economy, we referred to stock prices or gold prices. That must change. Households’ strength will be the most integral part of Thailand’s economy,” he said.
He added that Thailand has been virtually in a total capitalist system, where “big fish eats small fish” and wealth is concentrated at the top, or a very small percentage of the Thai population.
“It’s old-fashioned to think that if big businesses survive, they will help out those under them and thus the economy would be fine. This is tantamount to saying ‘Corporates first, people later’,” he said, stating that a good, new balance is needed.
Tuesday, May 19, 2020: US President Donald Trump has threatened to permanently pull US funding from the World Health Organization and implied that a main reason why is WHO’s “dependence” on China.
The WHO, which has had to endure a stormy tie with the Trump administration, could forget about long-term American funding if it does not “commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days.”
Monday, May 18, 2020: Two things are certain in the on-going saga of the financially-ailing Thai Airways International: The issue of how and whether the state should help the enterprise will be deeply politicised, and anyone pushing for a “privatisation” agenda will only succeed over the dead body of its labour union.
THAI labour leaders have issued a statement vowing to “oppose until the end” the idea of reducing the government’s shareholding in the national flag carrier. If the government no longer owns the majority shares in THAI, creditors’ confidence will drop and it will be harder to find funds for the much-needed rehabilitation, the union said. Moreover, employees’ welfare will be greatly affected, it said.
The statement said rehabilitation would demand lay-offs and reduction in employees’ benefits, and those are measures that will be easier to achieve if the Finance Ministry is no longer the majority shareholders.
“We are opposed to the idea and will oppose it until the end,” the statement said.
State enterprises’ labour unions are deemed to be stronger and virtually more legally protected than their counterparts in the private sector.
Sunday, May 17, 2020: It’s one man’s opinion, but Seri Wongmontha’s thought on the Thai Airways International’s critical financial trouble must be shared by many and underlined immense tasks ahead of the Prayut administration, which is pondering a rescue plan for the national flag carrier.
In a Facebook post, the academic, who is also a social critic and active politically, listed the following reasons why THAI is now in such a bad shape:
- Bad and highly-costly aircraft purchase
- Bad and clumsy management structure that gives executives unrealistically high salaries
- Poorly thought-out “open sky” policy, supported by the government, which led to decimating competition and cancellation of some good routes
- Nomination of “affiliated” airlines that in fact led to self-cannibalism or loss of market share
- Weak marketing strategies
- Possibility of corruption
- Expensive employment of foreign advisers who may have conflicts of interest as they also had to advise other airlines
- High “commissions” paid to agents without any serious attempt to change the system
Seri ended the post with an ominous admission that the above could be just 10 per cent of existing problems at THAI. Outsiders, he insisted, “can only see the tip of the iceberg.”
Saturday, May 16, 2020: An opinion poll has given the Prayut administration a good majority support for its handling of the COVID-19 crisis as well as the state of emergency.
King Prajadhipok’s Institute has conducted a survey on 1,338 Thais during the first two weeks of May, around the same time that the number of cases in the country began to drop continually.
From the scale of 0 to 10, with 10 meaning “the most satisfied” and 0 meaning “not satisfied at all”, over 64% gave the government between 6 and 10. A total of 6.3% gave 0.
About 80% of the people surveyed said they thought the state of emergency was necessary in the crisis. (About 43 % said they “totally agreed” with the state of emergency, while 37% said they “considerably agreed”.)
Dissatisfaction centred on the initial information confusion, the “slow” responses to the face mask issue, and the “insufficient” application of reliable expertise and data. The poll showed high public clamouring for real experts to lead management of technical or sophisticated affairs at the national level and deep public mistrust of politicians to handle this kind of situation.
When asked about “the importance of” money in the pocket and health, about 61% said they thought health was more important. Nearly 36% thought the opposite. About 3% said no comment.
Friday, May 15, 2020: Before Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha starts worrying about what the opposition may say regarding the severe financial ills of the Thai Airways International and whether or how much the state should help it, he is likely having to navigate differing opinions within his own Cabinet first.
It is almost certain that the Cabinet will look at a proposal to reduce the government’s majority shareholding in THAI to below 50%. This idea, favoured by the Bhumjaithai Party which has made unsettling noises regarding its status in the past, would pave the way for virtual privatisation of the national flag carrier.
Leading opposition figure Thanathorn Juangroonruangkit has strongly demanded privatisation, a stand yet to be officially embraced by the opposition bloc. Worse news for Prayut is that at least some in the government have started to see state hands in THAI affairs as improper.
THAI has been heavily criticised for its management, complicated by political influences, and every time big problems crop up, the issue of generous benefits of employees and their relatives rears its ugly head. That all the bad news is against a backdrop of the government being the majority shareholder means THAI is a political hot potato for the administration.
Thursday, May 14, 2020: A historian and social critic has said the financial chaos of the Thai Airways International could be dated back to past Thai governments, especially one controlled by Thaksin Shinawatra.
In a Facebook post that must have caught the eyes of defenders of the Prayut administration, which is skating on thin ice when it comes to whether or how the state should rescue the financially-ailing national flag carrier, whose majority shares are owned by the state, Atsadang Yommak said major investments that flopped and cost THAI tens of billions of baht took place while Thaksin was in power.
He said one THAI route introduced when Thaksin was prime minister suffered a heavy loss, and so did a much-opposed, politically-influenced decision to buy some aircraft. The numbers and parked, virtually unused aircraft were there for all fact-checkers, Atsadang insisted.
He was adamant that to find out who should be blamed for THAI woes, looking at annual profits or losses alone was not enough. THAI’s balance sheet looked good while Thaksin was prime minister, but some investments took years to yield damning results, he said.
THAI is in a dire financial situation, and debate on how much or whether the government should help it at all is getting heated and increasingly politicised.
Wednesday, May 13, 2020: A government spokesman has been infected. The number of cases is threatening to take the unenviable second spot for good. Initial, guarded optimism is in danger of giving way to prevalent panic.
All eyes are on Russia at present, adding to bewilderment at where COVID-19 has chosen to launch major strikes. Countries that are economically or politically powerful, or both, seem to have recorded big death tolls and/or infection numbers.
After China, then America, UK, the European Union big boys and Japan, it’s now Russia’s turn to have a really big cause for concern.
Russia and Spain as of today are anxious to avoid the second spot in terms of infections. The number of infected people in Russia has surpassed 232,240, while although the official death toll is just over 2,000, some experts believe the “real” number could be very much higher. The previous day saw over 10,000 new recorded infection cases.
Tuesday, May 12, 2020: Hot, divisive political news reports are making their way back to the front and home pages, with the numbers of COVID-19 cases in Thailand continuing to be low.
Among them are Piyabutr Saengkanokkul’s controversial Facebook post on the appointment of a privy councillor, laser projections of “information” on the red shirts’ bloody uprising and subsequent state suppression about a decade ago, the state of emergency determining school breaks and restricting “group activities”. To name just a few.
Even the noble idea of “Tu Pan Suk” or the “Box of sharing” _ which allows convenient donations of food and other necessities for the needy who can go straight to pick up what they need from the boxes, placed in different locations nationwide _ is in danger of being politicised now.
COVID-19 may bring out the best in mankind generally, but the worst is never totally suppressed and is waiting for the time to strike back.
Monday, May 11, 2020: Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has given the Prayut government glimpses of what could happen politically regarding the financially ailing national flag carrier airline, which is seeking a major rescue package to stay afloat.
In a hard-hitting Facebook Live presentation full of graphics and information, the leading opposition member, whose party has been dissolved and his own parliamentary status revoked, attacked the Thai Airways International board for the current financial woes and demanded at least a major downgrading of state support for THAI operations. He would be happy if THAI reincarnated as a virtually private company, with minimum government financial and political influences.
Despite Thanathorn’s absence from Parliament, he apparently remains an influential opposition figure. With the government confronted with a question of how to save a national carrier with major financial ills, aggravated by the global COVID-19 outbreak, the administration may have a big political fight around the corner if the entire opposition bloc embraces Thanathorn’s stance.
Thanathorn insisted that it was not fair for taxpayers if their money was involved in rescuing THAI, of which the Finance Ministry is a majority shareholder. Even if the rescue was successful, the public would never benefit from that, he said.
“If THAI survives, the board will win. If it goes under (despite help from government), the people will lose,” Thanathorn said. That statement can even be amplified by the fact that many private businesses are going under because of COVID-19.
Sunday, May 10, 2020: A good majority of respondents in a Nida Poll survey want businesses and a semblance of life normalcy to resume, but worries about a second wave of COVID-19 infections are also prevalent.
The poll was conducted last week among more than 1,250 Thais aged above 18. More than 34 % are totally in favour of easing the lockdown, citing the considerable decrease in the number of infections, while more than 49 % “quite agree” that the measure should be toned down. About 10% want the measure to continue entirely, saying they feel the situation is not entirely safe and the virus can always strike back.
More than 86% of respondents totally or considerably believe that business operators will obey public health measures and are equipped to continue to implement them. The respondents said the business operators’ performances over the past few weeks have been satisfactory.
However, nearly 63% of respondents are very or considerably worried about a new surge in infections. They said the virus thrived when people come together in big groups.
Those who are not worried about a second wave said Thais had learned well how to protect themselves.
Saturday, May 9, 2020: The United States has openly accused China of stepping up a campaign to shift blame for the coronavirus pandemic by using fake social media accounts to promote political secrecy about the virus, as rival conspiracy theories threaten to jump from underground computer keyboards into a high level of international diplomacy.
News from the State Department claimed America was serious about its suspicion that Beijing was increasingly embracing “Russian-style disinformation techniques.” Analysts with the State Department’s Global Engagement Center were quoted in mainstream news media as saying they have found evidence of a campaign linked to the ruling Communist Party in which accounts run by Chinese ambassadors and other Foreign Ministry officials gained hundreds of new followers a day. Many were newly created accounts that the US suspects are part of an automated bot network, according to pro-US reports.
The evidence points to “an artificial network to follow and amplify messages from Chinese diplomats and Foreign Ministry officials,” Lea Gabrielle, coordinator of the Global Engagement Center, told reporters hours ago. She said the campaign was part of an effort “to make the world see China as the global leader in the response rather than the source of the pandemic.”
Pro-US conspiracy theories claim COVID-19 originated from China, whether accidentally or intentionally. Opposing theories claim COVID-19 was designed by the US to either maintain the world’s political and economic status quo or make the financial world more in US favour, either through economic turmoil or through a new, digitalised monetary system.
All theories have one thing in common _ the villain is playing the victim.
Friday, May 8, 2020: The United Nations’ warning that the COVID-19 virus will unleash an unprecedented “tsunami of hate and xenophobia” was meant for the whole world, but Thailand, with its highly divisive politics and high dependence on the tourism industry, must take utmost caution.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said today the pandemic keeps unleashing “a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering” and appealed for “an all-out effort to end hate speech” anywhere in the world.
The UN chief said bad sentiment has surged online and in the streets, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred. News reports have also mentioned dangerously rising tension between the United States and China.
Guterres said people like migrants and refugees “have been vilified as a source of the virus – and then denied access to medical treatment.”
Thursday, May 7, 2020: Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak has confirmed what had become a common knowledge _ that the world economy will be in an unprecedentedly bad shape _ and urged Thais to cast aside political differences to help the nation through the current crisis caused by COVID-19.
His comment came on another day of bad global news. America’s unemployment numbers will be “jaw-dropping”, a mainstream media report said. Another one said England’s economy faces “the worst crash in 300 years.” Racial tension will be very high in England as a lot more blacks are expected to die from the virus than white people, according to BBC. Russia, which seemed to do well until recently when COVID-19 was concerned, is staring at an explosion of cases.
Thailand is doing quite well on the “control front”, but Somkid appeared under no illusion when its come to the economy.
“The world economy is very, very bad, and very much so in the United States,” Somkid said. “Everyone, rich or poor, will need to work together if we are to overcome this. What our country needs at the moment is all people working as one.”
Wednesday, May 6, 2020: A new genetic analysis of the COVID-19 virus taken from thousands of patients around the world shows it has been circulating in people since late last year, and spread extremely quickly, it was reported.
How is that news quite unsettling? First off, the outbreak is much faster than many scientists thought. Some doctors had hoped some explosion of numbers might have something to do with unknown circulation that had been building earlier. As it turns out, samples taken from more than 7,000 patients around the world showed the virus started circulating in people only late last year.
Secondly, if the virus inside human bodies is “younger” than previously assumed, it may still have a few more mutation tricks up its sleeves.
Thirdly, hopes or assumptions that some populations might have adopted immunity have been weakened considerably. Adopting immunity requires a period of “familiarisation”, so to speak.
To sum it up, the deadly and menacing virus which is changing the political, social and economic face of the world may not be even a finished article yet.
The same study also found something else intriguing. They have discovered genetic evidence that supports suspicions the virus was infecting people in Europe, the US and elsewhere weeks or even months before the first official cases were reported in January and February. It will be impossible to find the “first” patient in any country because, in the words of a leading researcher, “there are so many patient zeros.”
Tuesday, May 5, 2020: A leader of the now-defunct Future Forward Party has drawn varying comments from the media, activists and fellow politicians with an online post regarding the newly-appointed privy councillor.
Piyabutr Saengkranokkul’s Facebook post said that while Nurak Marpraneet was a Constitution Court judge, the court made a number of key decisions.
A list given by Piyabutr was a well-known public record, but he drew heavy comments because of timing and selectiveness regarding work of the Constitution Court.
Monday, May 4, 2020: In a news report gloomy for the international community, CNN has claimed that the United States is feeling an urge to “punish China on multiple fronts” after finding out that the latter was concealing the severity of the COVID-19 virus before it caused a global pandemic.
The CNN report underlines deep mistrust between the two countries, whose relationship had already been critical and sparked rival conspiracy theories related to COVID-19. The theories have one thing in common, though, which is that COVID-19 is a bioweapon and the villain is playing the victim.
But seemingly, it doesn’t matter how far conspiracy theorists go and whether the virus was “manmade” or not, because what happens on the surface is already bad enough. According to CNN, Washington’s powers-that-be are feeling an appetite to hit China with a series of trade and monetary measures amid an American finding that, before the global outbreak, Beijing was decreasing exports and stockpiling imports in a bid to make sure that medical supplies inside China were sufficient to cope with a pandemic.
The finding did not mean the Chinese intention was nefarious, CNN said. But even so, the international outlook from now on does not appear to be good.
“Multiple sources inside the US administration say that there is an appetite to use various tools, including sanctions, canceling US debt obligations and drawing up new trade policies, to make clear to China, and to everyone else, where they feel the responsibility lies,” CNN said.
If that happens, partly or totally, the world’s political and economic tension, now already high, will rise even further.
Sunday, May 3, 2020: Liquor was flying off shelves, in bottles, in packs and in big boxes. Of course, Thais miss barbers and having boat noodles properly, not at home, but nothing matches their craving for alcoholic drinks.
In the social media and mainstream news websites, pictures and reports of a Thai “Beer Rush” dominated. It was said that in one witnessed incident, shoppers did not even wait for beer to be put on shelves. They scooped away everything from a stock employee’s cart when it arrived.
On radio and in YouTube videos, hosts welcomed the easing of the lockdown, and the male ones said they missed something in particular. “I failed to stockpile it before they stopped selling,” a sport programme host said on a radio channel the other day. “I’m not gonna make the same mistake this time.”
***Due to some restrictions, an old picture of a previous shopping craze not related to alcohol is used here
Saturday, May 2, 2020: A charity “concert” aimed at giving away COVID-19 relief funds is a good, noble idea, but announcement that recipients “don’t need to prove their poverty” may be not.
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s announcement was obviously intended to taunt the government’s seemingly strict and punctilious conditions for those seeking relief compensation. Problem is that if state relief was working on loose conditions with help reaching undeserved applicants, the provider would get bombarded all the same.
In fact, the “You don’t have to prove your poverty” relief operation led by Thanathorn and his Progressive Movement on the Labour Day risks falling into the infamous category of “blind” handouts, allowing the early birds to get the worms whether they deserve them or not.
The concert, dubbed “Helping one another on May Day”, utilised online convenience for viewers, artists and donors. Donations surpassed Bt1 million, and Thanathorn and his top lieutenants underlined the intention to give Bt3,000 to each of the “sufferers” who did not have to prove their poverty. Applicants only needed to go to his party’s Facebook page and give identiity numbers and bank account numbers and “stated” the reasons why they needed help.
Friday, May 1, 2020: Whether the biggest coalition party is embracing “new normal” or actually returning to the old-fashioned power struggle is not as important as the fact that the camp is having to navigate a very bumpy period.
Gossips have it that the current leadership is “out of touch”, and calls for drastic changes _ probably a new leader and new secretary-general _ have been simmering. The names of Prawit Wongsuwan and Somkid Jatusripitak have been mentioned as the party that brought strangers and former enemies together reportedly ponders a fragile transition.
Key party members have lashed out at one another in public. News about Palang Pracharat “in turmoil” has started to assert itself amid heavy coverage of COVID-19 in the mainstream media. As Thailand appears to have brought the virus under control, at least for now, the Palang Pracharat issue will become increasingly bigger.
Thursday, April 30, 2020: Debate on how much Thai restrictions aimed at controlling COVID-19 should be eased will likely touch upon what happens in a Scandinavian nation which has been dealing with the virus unlike much of the world and is in an uncomfortable situation.
As of today, Sweden’s death toll has surpassed 2,400. It has over 20,000 infection cases. Lifestyle allowed by the Swedish government has been pretty much free, with people still able to get services of hairdressers, have coffee or drink with friends and see children play together. Children still go to school but big students are learning at home. The main policy emphasises personal responsibility, freedom, and “learning to live with the virus.”
Denmark has only 9,000 cases and 443 deaths. Norway’s number of cases is only slightly over 7,700, with 207 deaths. Finland’s numbers are 4,900 infections and 206 deaths. The three countries’ measures are a lot tougher, with freedom extremely limited.
Sweden is “paying a big human cost”, according to CNN.
Wednesday, April 29, 2020: An anti-US video clip has gathered more 13 million views on YouTube in just over two weeks, and it is not even about COVID-19.
The clip, uploaded this month, deals with a theory arguably more stunning than the assumption that COVID-19 was in fact a bioweapon let loose to either contain or upend the global status quo. It insists that Hollywood and well-known media outlets are part of a very elaborate plan to brainwash the whole world.
The name of the video is “Out of Shadows”. The original clip has recorded more than 10 million views and a copy clip, uploaded because searchers now seem to have trouble finding the original one, has clocked up over 3 million views.
There are many anti-America clips on YouTube, which, it is claimed, keeps taking down sensitive ones, or making them hard to search, or probably manipulating numbers of views of those trending. That “Out of Shadows” has managed to surpass 10 million views in a short period of time is, however, unusual.
Tuesday, April 28, 2020: The only one thing that can sway the world’s focus from COVID-19 is the question of how, where _ and even if _ North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is doing. Even US President Donald Trump, seemingly boasting intelligence information, has prompted more questions than answers.
Trump, in a characteristic self-contradiction in virtually the same breath, said he had a “good idea” what was going on with Kim Jong Un, but then went on to say nobody knew where he was.
This will not help mounting speculation, which has grown with what unverified reports said appeared to be unusual movement of medical personnel inside North Korea and the leader’s armoured train. Rumours will be further amplified if he is not seen in public soon.
Monday, April 27, 2020: European football is preparing for a cautious return. New York, dubbed the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak, might ease some restrictions in a matter of weeks. Thailand is hailed by Japan for its medical fight against the deadly virus. Bangkok’s state of emergency, however, will continue amid warnings that no country should lower its guard. England’s leader has sounded a big alarm, predicting an explosion of death tolls.
It was a day when optimism, well-found or not, went hand in hand with pessimism, locally and globally. In many places on earth, COVID-19 seems to have passed its deadliest peak. In others, the worst is yet to come. In between, fears of the virus striking back after being subdued are prevalent. Warmer-weather theorists are pointing at the slowing down in infection rates. Those who disagree point at numbers that can back them up.
In Thailand, the hottest issue is when and how much the tough restrictions should be eased. Political squabbling, limited over the past few weeks, has started to make its way back. Opponents of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha insisted he was “lucky” but charges of opportunism could be in full swing in a matter of days.
Sunday, April 26, 2020: The Pheu Thai Party’s Sudarat Keyuraphan said the government can very cautiously allow people out of their homes and redo some businesses if strict rules are in place, implemented and obeyed, and Thais are ready to live their lives in “new normal”, an increasingly familiar term for post-COVID-19 lifestyle.
The former public health minister said that if Thailand is to allow freer movement, five things need to happen:
- “Reopening” with strict public health concern and measures. She means that businesses to be allowed to restart must be carefully selected. For example, restaurants’ seating must comply strictly with “social distancing”, service personnel must wear masks, temperature checks must take place and hand cleaners have to be a must.
- Testing and quarantine capabilities must be up to standard in all provinces.
- State quarantine procedures on arrivals must continue to be intense and consistent. The 14-day quarantine must remain.
- All state hospitals must be fully supported in terms of funding and equipment.
- Thais must fully embrace the “new normal”. Hygienic lifestyle like mask wearing and hand washing has to be the norm from now on.
Saturday, April 25, 2020: Not “all” Thai bettors have been doing it, but a big lot of local gambling addicts have been relying on lotteries in neighbouring Indochinese countries as their last resort, albeit temporarily while sport events have been suspended and the Thai lottery is put on hold.
The craving Thai gamblers have flocked to websites offering Indochinese lottery bets, registered as members and put some money in their accounts. They cannot bet beyond their cash amounts in the accounts, of course.
Betting on the neighbouring countries’ lotteries had taken place before the COVID-19 outbreak, but the activity has become a lot more popular in the absence of international football games and Thai lottery.
Friday, April 24, 2020: Offences might increase in the near future, in proportion with the relative improvement in Thailand’s COVID-19 situation, but recorded violations of the Thai government’s state of emergency have not been abundant.
There have been 17,284 cases of violation, it was reported today. Remarkably, the biggest daily number, 1,551, was registered on April 7 and, coincidentally or not, the biggest number of new cases, 111, was recorded on April 8.
On April 23, 455 cases of state of emergency violations were recorded, the lowest since the tough measure came into effect. The next day, the number of infections was the lowest, at 13.
The biggest age group of violators is 20-35, followed by those aged between 35-55.
Thursday, April 23, 2020: Latest news about two New York cats getting infected could send fresh chills down the spines of many. In Thailand, noted for its COVID-19 containment success lately, new or resurgent worries can be remarkable. This is a country where stray dogs and cats roam virtually everywhere and some pet adoptions were fashionable, not out of pure love.
What would happen to those animals if the worries become something worse? Nobody knows. At the moment, though, scientists tell everyone to stay calm.
Speculation regarding pets has been swirling for some time, but latest news will spike it up. However, here are some scientific facts and reasons why you just have to take good care of your pets:
- Cats and dogs can be infected, particularly if exposed very closely to a large amount of the virus.
- Cats, experiments show, are more vulnerable than dogs.
- Cats, experiments show, can pass it on to other cats.
- Getting COVID-19 from animals is extremely unlikely. There are currently no reported cases of people catching the coronavirus from animals. In the World Health Organisation’s own words, “Based on current evidence, human to human transmission remains the main driver” of the COVID-19 pandemic, but “further evidence is needed to understand if animals and pets can spread the disease.”
- Observe possible measures when it comes to your pets. Do it with love and care.
By the way, the two New York cats in the news are expected to recover after showing signs of mild symptoms.
Wednesday, April 22, 2020: Remember masks being worn for a different reason? It might happen again in Hong Kong if the COVID-19 threat is neutralised there or anti-government demonstrators think it is safe enough to renew their activities, according to a western analysis.
Last but not least, Donald Trump has hours ago threatened to do what Kim Jong Un has been doing forever _ a virtual immigration lockdown.
Contrast and irony have marked the real-life tale of the two countries.
In a noticeable break from what has become a tradition of making COVID-19 the biggest story of the day, CNN has made a big story out of US intelligent officials’ suspicion that Kim Jong Un might have been in “grave danger” after a heart procedure because he was absent from a very important state function. The report has been played down, but not totally denied, by some other agencies.
Meanwhile, BBC and some other western news agencies have given major importance to Trump’s tweet that a temporary immigration lockdown was imminent to protect American jobs. He did not give any detail, which is being much anticipated. Many analysts noted that he won his first presidential election campaigning on an anti-immigration platform and his second-term bid is being hampered by COVID-19.
Monday, April 20, 2020: Complaints about ballooning electricity fees have overwhelmed the social media, complaint sections of newspapers and broadcasting news desks. Thais have one message in common to the Prayut government: We have been staying at home like you wanted us to, now help us cope with the consequences.
Many stated that their use of power increased a lot over the past month, with some complaining that their latest fees almost doubled. Everyone asked the government not to mix up earlier measures that included fee reduction as a relief measure for the near-complete lockdown which included limited curfew.
“Everyone has been forced to stay home during the hottest period of the year and because of that Thais have to use everything more _ lights, fans, air-conditioners, dish-washers, irons and etc,” said Senator Kamnoon Sidhisamarn. He said if the government could not pay more, the least it could do was helping share this burden of heavy electricity bills.
Sunday, April 19, 2020: As artists around the world try to promote peace and unity in an unprecedented online concert, the war of words between the United States and China has continued to be a constant highlight of the COVID-19 crisis, and US President Donald Trump has fuelled it this weekend.
Amid conspiracy theories swirling over who caused it and who is playing the victim, Trump warned on Saturday (Apr 18) that China could face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the coronavirus pandemic, according to CNN.
“It could have been stopped in China before it started and it wasn’t,” Trump told reporters at a White House briefing, CNN reported. “And now the whole world is suffering because of it.”
To be fair, his warning came after he had seemed to be prompted by reporters. He was asked whether China should suffer consequences over the pandemic which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December.
“If they were knowingly responsible, certainly,” he said, just hours before the specially-organised concert was streamed live to promote world unity and harmony amid the health crisis that confines a large number of the world population to their homes. “If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake. But if they were knowingly responsible, yeah, then there should be consequences.”
Saturday, April 18, 2020: US President Donald Trump and Russian Vladimir Putin have made more contacts over the past few weeks than they had at any time since 2016. Meanwhile, the name of Thaksin Shinawatra has emerged amid Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s idea to enlist help of Thai billionaires for the future economy. COVID-19, some optimists say, may bring about something that normal diplomacy and ordinary politics have been unable to.
Political rivals at any level can join hands when facing a common, bigger threat. And COVID-19 is by no means a simple, big threat. Its current impact on life and health has been devastating, but , after this, the world’s economy will lie in ruins, and the number of losers will abound if current “enemies” do not join hands.
As of now, mistrust can still block any substantial Trump-Putin or Prayut-Thaksin constructive cooperation. But the global lockdowns were unimaginable three months ago, too.
Friday, April 17, 2020: According to Digital Economy and Society Minister Puttipong Punnakanta, legal action has been taken regarding the following “fake news”:
- Mail or postal package recipients have been infected
- Around-the-clock curfew to begin this weekend
- Islamic Bank employee infected
- Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration relocated following internal infection
- Golden needle mushroom carries COVID-19 virus
- Around-the-clock curfew to begin next week
- Online criticism of government banned
The last two “news” led to two arrests each. One arrest each has been made for the other “news.”
Thursday, April 16, 2020: In the same breath, US President Donald Trump has described his country as a an imminent “comeback kid” but suggested he might be forced to use questionable powers to unilaterally and officially place his own nominees in the fight against COVID-19.
His vow to “reopen” the US economy as soon as possible flies in the face of mounting death and infection numbers in America. Critics fear that Trump’s political need to see a quick and massive rebound as he seeks re-election would compound the country’s COVID-19 misery.
“We will be the comeback kids, all of us, all of us,” he said. “It’s incredible, what’s going on. Tomorrow is going to be a very big day … We will have some openings that will … exceed our expectations, and they will be safe.”
While that sounds upbeat, he also stressed the potential need to sidestep Congress in putting his own nominees on key positions in the war against COVID-19. Such a scenario is uncharacteristic of a “comeback kid” and the ideas to reopen the economy while invoking controversial “powers” must have sent chills down the spines of health officials, democracy lovers and ordinary citizens alike.
Wednesday, April 15, 2020: First, it was noted that more men were infected than women. Now, it has been noticed that countries with women as political leaders have been doing quite impressively against COVID-19, whether in terms of prevention or going toe to toe.
An article in CNN remarked that in Taiwan, early intervention measures have controlled the coronavirus pandemic so successfully that it is now exporting millions of face masks to help the European Union and others. Germany, meanwhile, has overseen the largest-scale coronavirus testing program in Europe, conducting 350,000 tests each week, detecting the virus early enough to isolate and treat patients effectively. New Zealand’s prime minister took early action to shut down tourism and impose a month-long lockdown on the entire country, limiting coronavirus casualties to just four deaths.
“All three places have received accolades for their impressive handling of the coronavirus pandemic. They are scattered across the globe: one is in the heart of Europe, one is in Asia and the other is in the South Pacific.
But they have one thing in common: they’re all led by women,” CNN said. The article attributed the remarkable success to “early and decisive action” as well as the possibility that male politicians can be more egoistic while being incompetent and denying science.
Tuesday, April 14, 2020: A familiar face in the Thai fight against COVID-19 has had to face first glimpses of what has become somewhat unfamiliar these days _ divisive politics.
Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Public Health Ministry who has been officially updating the nation on Thailand’s situation on a daily basis, winning considerable praise at a time when faith in the government’s ability to handle the outbreak was shaky and doubts were mounting on state information, is now being accused of overdoing his job.
A leading member of the post-coup movement pushing for a general election, Karn Pongpraphaphan, is not satisfied with what he perceived as Taweesin’s portrayal of the government, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in particular, as a heroic saviour.
Karn’s Facebook post literally said Taweesin is a medical official, “not the father of Thailand.”
Apart from “hyping up” the prime minister, Taweesin, “who is not even an elected official”, has been telling Thais what to do and what not to do, Karn said.
“It’s not your job to point your finger and tell the people to do this and do that,” Karn insisted. He also stressed that Taweesin “is not an angel”, so the man therefore is not above criticism.
“Every time he is criticised, his fan club will crawl out of the woodworks,” Karn said, calling for Taweesin to be replaced.
National politics has taken a back seat during this period, thanks largely to the need for unified response to the crisis and partly to the government’s state of emergency. With the Thai situation seemingly stable to a certain extent, comments like Karn’s are likely to increase.
Monday, April 13, 2020: Highly-cautious global optimism has been made even more cautious with fears that China might be facing a second wave of an outbreak.
News reports mention a small and slow yet significant rise in imported cases in the country which has already eased certain strict measures against the virus.
A total of 108 new coronavirus cases were reported in mainland China on Sunday, up from 99 a day earlier. The National Health Commission said 98 of the new cases were “imported”, a new record. A total of 49 Chinese nationals who entered Heilongjiang province from Russia tested positive.
Chinese cities near the border with Russia are tightening border controls and imposing stricter quarantines in response to influx of infected patients from the country.
Being the virus’ first big target, China has seen a sharp drop, swinging global concern to America, dubbed the new “epicentre” , and Europe, which have shown signs of minor improvement as well. The small rise in imported cases in China was enough to make the whole world maintain, if not tighten, its guards.
Sunday, April 12, 2020: In the middle of the current global pandemic, there are very intriguing and sharply-contrasting statistics emerging that must have sent the world’s political pulse racing, or pointed toward the planet’s future course, or further invigorated conspiracy theorists, or a bit of everything.
One has to do with the United States’ miserable situation concerning the outbreak. The other confirms China’s increased technological strength to go with its economic prowess.
America has completely and unenviably topped the COVID-19 table, which features numbers of infections and death tolls for each nation. The country has left China, where the deadly virus struck first, so far behind on COVID-19 figures.
China, meanwhile, has become the biggest filer for intellectual property rights for the first time in several decades. This report has been all but drowned out by fears of COVID-19 which has gripped the world, but it’s a big deal.
The World Intellectual Property Organisation, which oversees a system for countries to share recognition of patents, said 58,990 applications were filed from China last year, beating out the United States, which filed 57,840, for the first time since the system was in place more than 40 years ago.
According to WIPO’s Head, Francis Gurry, China’s success was “down to a very deliberate strategy on the part of Chinese leadership to advance innovation and to make the country a country whose economy operates at a higher level of value.” “It is working, and intellectual property is certainly part of that strategy. I would put it down to that broad movement towards becoming a higher-value economy,” he said.
To add to the intrigues that must have fuelled “conspiracies” concerning the COVID-19 and global trade war, China’s Huawei Technologies, the world’s biggest telecoms equipment maker that America all but tries to demonise, has become the top corporate patent filer for the third consecutive year.
Saturday, April 11, 2020: Anyone frustrated with continued, if not intensified, restrictions on normal activities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic must take the latest warning from the World Health Organisation seriously: This is far from over.
Falling or slowing-down infection rates in various of the world have prompted not only cautious optimism in some countries, but also a rush to resume at least a semblance of normal life in others. According to world reports, people in the Czech Republic can now shop at hardware and bicycle stores, play tennis and go swimming, while Austria plans to reopen smaller shops after Easter. Denmark, meanwhile, will reopen kindergartens and schools from next week if what is perceived as an improvement in the situation continues. Children in Norway reportedly will also return to kindergarten a week later.
With the Thai rates also decreasing, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s announcement that the virtual Songkran prohibition would remain was not welcomed by all. Some understand, but others have criticised continued harsh measures. Many have frowned on the temporary liquor ban.
Prayut has the WHO on his side, though. Lifting lockdown measures too early could spark a “deadly resurgence” in infections, the agency has warned.
Its chief, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was quoted by BBC as saying that countries should be cautious about easing restrictions, even as some struggle with the economic impact.
Europe’s worst hit countries, Spain and Italy, are both known to be relaxing some measures, while their lockdowns continue, BBC said.
Friday, April 10, 2020: Many people in the northern Indian state of Punjab have woken up to see the Himalayan mountain range from their homes for the first time in decades, thanks to their country’s lockdown that considerably cleared pollution, CNN has reported. Other news stories from other news outlets featured clear water in Venice and blue skies all over China.
Also in abundance are online posts stating that while politics, economy and societies have greatly suffered from the COVID-19 global outbreak, nature has so far been the winner.
Some of the posts include highly-questionable information, but others have justifiably raised soul-searching questions. Is human progress far too dangerously rapid? Has that progress threatened the nature drastically. If money is that important, how come many activities associated with it are the first to go at the moment of truth? Above all, are we in fact the cancer of the planet and COVID-19 is the chemotherapy?
Thursday, April 9, 2020: The majority of English Premier League players have launched a ‘collective initiative’ to provide financial assistance to the National Health Service whose personnels, like their counterparts in the rest of the world, are risking their lives helping COVID-19 victims.
The big fund can serve as an example for other countries, and it was formed amid criticism that highly-paid football players were reluctant to have their wages cut. One of the reasons for the reluctance is that players would never know for sure how sacrificed salaries would be used. The initiative, named PlayersTogether, would guarantee money would certainly reach health service personnel in one form or another.
Campaigns or gestures of thankfulness for the “frontline” medical people have taken place in various parts of the world, and very deservedly so. For example, some business venues in Thailand have campaigns of their own, like introducing fast lanes for doctors and nurses.
The PlayersTogether campaign is well-organised and systematic, and has raised a lot of money from one of the richest groups in the world.
Wednesday, April 8, 2020: As expected, one of the most outspoken critics of the Prayut government has had to endure a barrage of harsh criticism after basically saying it was nonsensical and reeking of dictatorship to extend school breaks amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Broadcast commentator Nattakorn Devakula, known as Khun Pluem, had posted on his Facebook something many perceived as starkly contradictory to his previous statement that the government was not bold enough in tackling COVID-19. It was only a few weeks ago when he said he would have “stopped the flights” immediately to contain the outbreak, and in the same breath he asked the government to resign for not being decisive enough.
His latest post drew an overwhelming number of angry responses. One was accompanied by a story of school closure in the United States. Many others say it was nearly impossible to make children keep “social distance”, and that an infected child can spread to elderly relatives at home like grandmothers or grandfathers who like to hug and kiss them.
A few said that instead of asking the government to “Think a little bit”, Nattakorn himself should have thought more about what he should or should not post. Some noted that Nattakorn always showed publicly that he had high political ambitions, and they wondered what his latest post would do to the aspirations.
(Photo from his Facebook)
Tuesday, April 7, 2020: An outspoken critic of the Prayut government might have opened himself up for a major backlash after slamming the idea of extending school vacations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Think a little bit,” Nattakorn Devakula, a broadcast commentator who has been critical of the government, wrote on his Facebook. “What damn benefits will postponement of the next semester bring?”
He said there was no need “to take away education opportunities” of Thai children now that the country’s situation “appears under control.” More people are dying from other causes, he stated. Nattakorn also said the government should learn when to retreat.
He added: “Enough with unreasonable closing of schools”.
It was a perplexing outburst.
(Photo from his Facebook)
Monday, April 6, 2020: In one of the most poignant, sincerest and touching statements on COVID-19, a Thai woman who is among medical personnel risking their lives in New York said how she feared for herself every minute and said people who are stranded at home complaining about everything did not know how lucky they are.
Babe Patumanon’s Facebook said she works as a doctor’s assistant in one of the overwhelmed New York hospitals. It’s basically a doctor’s right-hand person. Thailand still does not have that position, called PA, which is just below doctors and higher than nurses.
“People like us pray everyday, we hug and say goodbye to people we love every time we leave them, because we don’t know when we are going to get infected,” she said. The woman stressed that COVID-19 is “scarier and closer” than anyone thinks.
The initial stage of patients is not much different from those suffering from a normal flu, but things deteriorate quickly, the woman said. She and colleagues have had to watch critical patients gasping for air, many for the last time, and she said such a scene is both sad and scary.
“Doctors and their assistants can run in and out, but we have the fullest sympathy for the nurses, who have to be with patients a lot more, doing the many routine things,” she said.
“Some people don’t know how lucky they are, staying home, eating candy and surfing the Internet. I’m just a normal person like you. I’m no hero. I’m even an Exhibit A coward. If I had a choice I would choose to lie around at home just like you.
“…Please stay home. If you suspect that you might have caught the disease, don’t tell lies. You may think nobody cares about you, but those you infect must have mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters or children who care deeply about them. The people you infect may be their families’ only breadwinners or only hopes. Or someone somewhere may be relying heavily on them.
“Just think you do it for others or for the country,” she said.
COVID-19 makes her understand more why people should always tell people they love that they love them, as once one gets infected, one will get separated from their loved ones immediately.
One of the pains of her job is knowing that some of her patients would die before her day shift was over. “There was nothing much I could do except give them pain killers,” she said.
The end of her long post tells readers how scared she is: “If you ask me whether I’m scared, the truth is I’m really, very scared. I don’t want to die like my patients and I don’t want to get infected and pass it to people I love.”
Sunday, April 5, 2020: A CNN headline says it all: “Trump puts American lives in China’s hands”
The analytical and opinionated story went on to bitterly state that a country the United States blames for everything evil _ suppressive politics, economic and trade opportunism and even still-unproven cover-up attempts to blur or distort the truth about the COVID-19 virus _ is supplying a substantial amount of medical equipment to save American lives.
CNN, which apparently dislikes China as much as Donald Trump, suggested the reliance was unnecessary or should have been unnecessary.
“In a perverse — and avoidable — twist of fate, the country that was arguably responsible for the virus’ spread because of its attempts to cover up the initial outbreak is now the one best positioned to profit from its fatal impact,” the article said.
The same article said the US intelligence community has warned that China is intent on expanding its global economic reach. Now, with the epicenter of the pandemic shifting to the United States, “Trump’s lack of preparation has given China an opening to expand that reach quickly.”
Saturday, April 4, 2020: The hunt for people fleeing the airport to evade quarantine is the hot Thai news, but international worry has started to focus on a country that seemed to have a surprising immunity, India.
Populous India has reported its biggest single-day jump in new cases, with 601 representing a 26% rise, according to international news outlets. The country now has more than 3,0oo cases and the death toll is approaching 100, at least one of which was said to be in a big slum.
After China, it has been Italy, Spain and then the United States. A few signs of the COVID-19 virus slowing down have been hampered by the Indian figures, especially when the world’s medical resources are being increasingly stretched.
Friday, April 3, 2020: If the powers-that-be tackle COVID-19 in the usual political manner, albeit resorting to soft measures first and going from there, that is not the way to do it, according to veteran former politician Arthit Urairat, who has considerable experience in medical services.
The former science minister, who is also former public health minister and former foreign minister, said measures concerning international arrivals must be very tough, so are ones on mask wearing, domestic travels, events and home departures.
“This is not a fight against political protesters, where you can go from soft to tough,” he said.
Basically, Arthit said political worries can make rulers hold back on measures or implementing them, something the deadly virus can take advantage of.
Thursday, April 2, 2020: The United States and China are blaming each other for the COVID-19 outbreak. Official lines don’t refer to malicious motives, maybe sincerely or maybe for obvious diplomatic reasons. But the polite diplomacy leaves a lot of gap for conspiracy theorists to fill.
There are a few theories doing the rounds at the moment. They are either pro-US or pro-China. What they have in common is that the villain is playing the victim and the aim is to halt, or disrupt, or destroy the enemy’s massive clout.
The anti-US conspiracy theory counts on America’s ability to bounce back better than the others so the old dollar-based economic order will be maintained or even get stronger in the long run. With economies of much of the world, especially of Asia, in ruins due to lockdowns or a prevalent climate of fear, the rise of Yuan will have to wait, for a long, long time, if the currency can rise at all.
There are two main anti-China theories. The first, which toes the lines of a mega-US lawsuit, has it that COVID-19 is a Chinese bioweapon experiment gone wrong, with cover-up attempts resulting in a global outbreak. According to the second, it is not an experiment, but an ambitious operation.
Whether or not any of the theories contains any truth, they all will most likely outlast the outbreak.
Wednesday, April 1, 2020: In a goodwill gesture, the opposition bloc has told the Thai public and government that “we will fight this together”.
Opposition and Pheu Thai leader Sompong Amornwiwat said in a statement that COVID-19 is challenging Thailand to survive the outbreak and all ramifications “as a (unified) nation”, and that the opposition was willing to do whatever it can to help the country make it through the crisis.
“We will cooperate with the government in terms of passing (emergency) budgets or laws deemed necessary (when COVID-19 is concerned),” he said.
Opinion polls have been clear on what Thais need politicians to do the most during this time, and top of the Thais’ wish list is less divisive politics.
Sompong urged the government to be decisive, respectful of human rights and transparent in fighting the global medical crisis. He also called on the Thai public to help containment measures succeed.
Tuesday, March 31, 2020: The Thai government has thanked a Facebook poster who warned that people must keep COVID-19 away from any April Fools’ Day joke or prank.
“You risk jail,” said a popular influencer’s Facebook page. Taweesin Wisanuyothin, spokesman for the government’s COVIC-19 Administration Centre, told a press conference today that the prime minister was thankful of the warning.
The Facebook page mentioned that the social media made it easier to pull off dramatic April Fools’ Day lies, like posting doctored photos. That must never be done, the page said.
Monday, March 30, 2020: A proposed across-the-board 10-per cent reduction in state budgets for secondary projects has been backed by a key opposition figure, Pheu Thai’s Sudarat Keyuraphan.
She backs Korn Chatikavanij’s idea that massive money gained from the budget cuts can be used in the emergency fight against COVID-19 including as compensation for doctors, nurses and all medical personnel risking their lives at the moment.
Hospitals need to upgrade their equipment and facilities immediately, she said.
Korn, former finance minister and now leader of the newly-formed Kla Party, had said developed western countries were warming up to the idea.
Sudarat said the current Thai situation was like sending unprotected soldiers to war, and the prime minister must solve the problem right away.
Sunday, March 29, 2020: COVID-19 measures and related matters continue to be the most important factor to determine how popular or unpopular the Prayut government is.
The government’s rating has gone up remarkably on the early days of the state of emergency, from a remarkable low just days before.
According to Super Poll, the government’s approval rating was only 9.6 %, compared with a 47.7 % dislike. That has changed due primarily to the state of emergency, according to poll director Noppadol Kannika.
Now, the approval rating is 29.1 %, while the opposite camp has been reduced to 26.1 %.
Other poll findings, however, said Thais continue to attach much importance to COVID-19. One in three Thais wants the government to be clearer on relief measures whereas 5 % said they knew nothing at all about state compensation programmes.
More than 90 % want the government to do more in providing face masks and hand cleaners. They also want cheaper petrol and transportation costs.
Saturday, March 28, 2020: If eggs don’t return sufficiently to markets and convenient stores’ shelves soon, the Prayut government can have another big issue to worry about.
The administration has been relatively lucky with the COVID-19 situation in Thailand, with the problem of face mask hoarding not proven to be a devastating political bombshell as initially expected, but the sporadic shortage of eggs may snowball into something a lot bigger and more worrisome.
The state of emergency has drastically changed Thais’ eating habits, and the demand for fresh eggs has skyrocketed as families have had to cook most meals for themselves. Shortages have been reported in several areas, leading to online complaints and the authorities’ increasingly vocal threats against hoarding.
An export suspension has been ordered, but some say a one-week export ban is not enough. It has to be one or two months, it is said.
The matter has caught the prime minister’s attention, hence more orders and threats of legal action against hoarding and profiteering. But nothing will help the government unless eggs sufficiently make their way back soon with reasonable prices.
Friday, March 27, 2020: There is no way Jurgen Klopp and his players could have known their heartfelt messages of thankfulness to medical personnel around the world would further embarrass a Thai government politician, but the contrast between both camps can’t be more glaring.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul had found himself in hot water after implying that infected medical personnel should have been careful in protecting themselves while treating COVID-19 patients.
“Medical personnel should set an example for the public on how to protect themselves,” Anutin said. He issued an apology after that.
As Anutin was reeling from an uproar, the Liverpool manager and his players launched an online campaign to thank medical staff around the world. Their messages came in the forms of texts and videos.
“Myself, the staff and all the players of LFC would like to take this opportunity to deliver a message to say thank you to all the incredible people who work in the health services, all the health workers out there,” Klopp said. “It’s unbelievable what you are doing and on behalf of all of us at LFC, I would like to say thank you – or, how we would say in Germany, vielen dank!”
Thursday, March 26, 2020: Although the Future Forward Party has been disbanded, something has refused to go away.
According to the Election Commission, which has virtually been at war with leaders of the now-dissolved party, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s wife donated Bt10 million to Future Forward in January and his brother, Bordinthorn Juangroongruangkit, made Bt3.2 million to the same political camp in February before the Constitutional Court’s ruling came down.
Both of the Juangroongruangkits’ donations top the lists of donated money to all political parties in January and February, according to information on the EC’s website.
Thanathorn never denies loaning money to his own party, which led to its dissolution, saying it was necessary due to financial constraints after years of military rule. It should also be noted that the donations were on open records, as were his loans to Future Forward.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020: The reincarnation of the dissolved Future Forward Party, Kao Klai, has had to endure online backlash against its opposition to the state of emergency declared by the Prayut government to fight COVID-19.
Many people, some of them believed to be Kao Klai’s supporters themselves, said online that the government’s move, while unpleasant, was necessary at a time of the serious medical crisis. Some messages were remarkably tough against Kao Klai, which was accused of choosing a wrong time for politicisation. The critics noted that several “democratic” western countries have adopted equally, if not more, “undemocratic” measures to fight the deadly outbreak.
Certain messages said while medical professionals and authorities were trying their best to curtail or contain the spread, this was no time for politicians “who have done nothing to help” to push a divisive ideological agenda. Kao Klai leader Pita Limjaroenrat was naturally the target of criticism.
Tuesday, March 24, 2020: As Thailand announced probably its politically easiest and smoothest state of emergency, news from a country many are pinning their technological hope on, the United States, is anything but encouraging.
An article in The New York Times said the next fortnight is very crucial in determining whether Washington will win or lose the war against COVID-19. A death toll of 100,000 was mentioned, and that was apparently one of the good-case scenarios.
“The US is starting to look like Italy” in terms of how both countries have grappled with their respective situations, said CNN. America is in fact hot on the heels of Italy in terms of overall infections and has even surpassed the European nation and China on new cases. The United States is third on the overall COVID-19 table after China and Italy. China has shown signs of a considerable slowdown, however, while the United States’ infection graph is getting steeper and steeper.
The same New York Times article said the American death toll can be up to 2 millions within a year without sufficient measures or efforts. Infections in the superpower nation have soared past 43,000 while more than 550 deaths have been reported. Schools, bars, restaurants and entire cities have been closed. Big economic growth contractions have been projected, with most analysts saying an upturn will be very tough and far off.
US media outlets have attacked President Donald Trump for flip-flopping between complacency and knee-jerk reactions.
Monday, March 23, 2020: According to a social and environmental professor, Siwach Pongpiajun of the National Institute of Development Administration, here are probably reasons why….
- India is “Mother of Social Distancing”. In other words, people wai instead of hugging and kissing.
- India consumes less alcohol than most other countries.
- India smokes cigarettes less than most other countries.
- Maybe it’s because of some spices in spice-rich Indian foods.
- Maybe Indian people are exposed to more sunlight than most of their counterparts in other countries. Experts say Vitamin D is useful when the virus is concerned.
- Maybe it’s because of yoga and meditation.
- Maybe being vegetarians helps. Many Indians don’t eat meat.
- India is generally hot.
The above is just a theory, he insists. It’s up to the Thai government what it wants to adapt.
Sunday, March 22, 2020: A clear majority of respondents to the latest Super Poll survey want politicians to stop fighting for now, saying their divide has aggravated misinformation, enhanced unwanted uncertainties as well as anxiety and disrupt several measures.
About 85 % of 1,195 Thais surveyed last week said as people often listen to politicians they like, respect or admire, the latter should speak in one voice, so Thailand’s fight against COVID-19 will be cohesive.
Political fights have largely given way to news about COVID-19, partly because many usually outspoken politicians have stopped talking about political agendas, and partly because news outlets have had their attentions firmly on the outbreak. However, Super Poll’s findings say the role of politicians during this crisis can still significantly improve.
The same poll shows Thais want quicker and true information about the crisis and they want the government to pay greater attention to helping ease the economic impact of the outbreak.
Saturday, March 21, 2020: In what looks like his boldest proposals to the government since leaving the Democrat Party, former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij has called for an across-the-board 10% state budget cut so that households and small businesses reeling from the combined economic and COVID-19 crises can get extra money.
Now leader of the newly-formed Kla Party, Korn said the 10% cut would allow the government to have Bt330 billions for emergency use. The reduction can come from re-prioritising projects, he pointed out.
“Assistance money can be given to individuals or families who are really suffering,” he said in a Facebook post, adding that information on lay-offs and freelance contracts should not be difficult to find. The transfer of state fund is an idea embraced by England and would enable the government to help people in dire straits without facing an additional budget deficit, he said.
The goal is simple, and that is making everyone survive the crisis together without anyone having to starve to death, he said.
Friday, March 20, 2020: Amid spreading fears, rumours and anxiety, Bangkok is going to get a big help from China in the form of 100,000 Favipiravir pills, the anti-viral influenza drug known to have shown promises in fighting COVID-19, according to Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
He emphasised that the drug, developed in Japan, was not a COVID-19 killer, but it can significantly strengthen human lungs, giving recipients significant immunity against the deadly virus. COVID-19 patients who were given Favipiravir reportedly had shorter recover times than those who were not.
Anutin said the Chinese assistance would significantly enhance Thailand’s medicinal stockpile to fight COVID-19.
“We are entering (mass) treatment mode, which we are well-equipped to carry out,” he said, attributing the Chinese action to good ties between the two countries.
Thursday, March 19, 2020: With Thailand on a COVID-19 slippery slope, former leaders of Parliament have pushed for an extraordinary session of the country’s two legislative chambers to discuss measures to fight the global outbreak.
They made their call in a letter to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai. The letter was signed by former House speaker and parliament president Arthit Urairat, former Senate speaker Suchon Chaleekrua, former Senate speaker Sanit Vorapanya, former Senate speaker Prasopsook Boondech, former Senate speaker Teeradej Meepien and former Senate speaker Nikom Wairatpanij.
The former parliamentary chiefs also wanted discussions on other matters such as students’ protests and drought.
Wednesday, March 18, 2020: “Lockdown” is a sensitive word, and Thailand is not there yet, according to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
In a statement that mixed everything _ optimism, pessimism, pleas for understanding and characteristic digs at critics, Prayut did not rule out a total shutdown of affected provinces or even the country.
“As of now, we have not gone as far as a lockdown,” he said. “I’d rather call it intense measures.”
Thailand’s situation remains controllable, the prime minister insisted. But in the same breath, he said the Chinese example of absolute lockdown of cities would be followed if need be.
“At the moment, we are not preventing planes or cars going in and out, which is another level entirely,” he said, adding that the government did not make decisions based purely on what the social media are saying.
“I’m not spending my time reading only social media posts,” he said. “I have other works to do in addition to COVID-19.”
Tuesday, March 17, 2020: The medical community has reacted positively to the government’s highly-sensitive decision to postpone Songkran holidays to limit mass movements, an activity that experts say COVID-19 feeds greedily on.
Virology professor Yong Poovorawan of the Chulalongkorn University said China had scored a remarkable success in containing an outbreak through unprecedented and severe restrictions on Chinese New Year travels, a measure that can be hugely unpopular but is required if a “super spread” is to be prevented or limited.
“The Chinese New Year is no different from Songkran,” Assoc Prof Anon Sakworawit of the National Institute of Development Administration. “Many people said we should not toy with this Songkran tradition, but I agree with Professor Yong and would like to praise the decisiveness of this government, which was not always bold like this.”
Monday, March 16, 2020: In what could be a sign of things to come nationally, Buriram has imposed stricter measures than the rest of Thailand in fighting COVID-19, a move backed by veteran politician Newin Chidchob, an influential figure in the northeastern province.
The measures, approved and ordered by the provincial governor, Thatchakorn Hattatayakul, include:
- Through screenings at points of provincial entry such as train station and airport, and hospitality facilities such as hotels.
- Checks at suspicious villages or random checks.
- Registration of suspected patients, who will be subjected to 14-day close monitoring.
- Cancellation or postponement of any event that can bring more than 50 people together. This include students’ tutoring courses, cultural or traditional activities, flea markets and summer mass ordinations. Permission from district chiefs will be needed and all safety measures must be in place in case an event can’t be cancelled or postponed.
- Upgraded facilities at all hospitals such as separate sections for infected people including ICUs.
- Teams of medical experts for every district that can provide immediate assistance.
In a Facebook post, Newin, now the owner of the Buriram United football club who the provincial statement said would chip in some financial assistance, said: “We don’t care who are not doing it. We are doing it. Go Buriram go.”
Sunday, March 15, 2020: An opinion survey has touched upon a highly sensitive matter of giving the government state of emergency powers to deal with the spiralling COVID-19 crisis.
A Super Poll survey even concluded that over 70 % of those asked about the scenario said they accepted it if Thailand has to come to that.
A state of emergency would literally mean giving the government more authority to deal with the situation, with certain drastic measures not having to go through the normal parliamentary process.
The same poll continues to find shaking faith in the government, a somewhat ironic finding given the poll’s conclusion that the majority of Thais would practically accept national emergency measures imposed by the government.
It was not clear how much detailed information was provided by Super Poll during the survey regarding a state of emergency or national emergency.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha did not rule out enforced closure of pubs and other entertainment venues in affected areas. He also mentioned the possibility of 24-hour medical service provided by the state for people who are infected or suspected to have been infected.
Saturday, March 14, 2020: An opinion poll shows a majority of Thais are finding it very difficult to get face masks amid the growing COVID-19 global crisis, and many feels that the government needs more assistance from medical experts in implementing anti-virus measures.
Almost 65 % of respondents to the latest Bangkok Poll survey of 1,199 people said they have been unable to find face masks at all or have had to make strenuous efforts to find one. About 19% said they had no problem finding face masks at traditional or online stores.
More than 56 % thought the government needed help from health experts in providing face masks for the public. More than 52% demanded harsh penalties against hoarding or profiteering. More than 45% wanted the prime minister to be extremely active on the health crisis.
Friday, March 13, 2020: Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul was new to Twitter, and he has learned a thing or two the hard way.
He has kicked up a storm with a tweet comparing bathing habits between people from hot and cold weathers. He was deemed, among others, a “racist” for his comment that one camp was dirtier and suggestion that the “lazy” habit probably sped up the COVID-19 outbreak and posed a threat to tourist nations like Thailand.
His account is no longer there, apparently, but many still captured his controversial tweet, which would have meant nothing or little had he been Mr Ordinary or a simple troll. Countless people said Anutin “disappoints” them.
Twitter can make or break a person, and impact can be unimaginably huge. Donald Trump, for one, created real fears of a new World War with his tweets. It wouldn’t hurt for both Trump and Anutin to get a social media tutor.
Thursday, March 12, 2020: Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, the head of the government’s economic team, has vowed fresh measures to help the stock market, businesses and labour as the world keeps reeling from bad to worse in the COVID-19 crisis.
Somkid said the Finance Ministry has been assigned to step up assistance for businesses and employees suffering economically as a result of the snowballing global outbreak and come up with a separate stimulant measure for an April-May period.
“Things are going to be tough,” he said.
The Finance Ministry has also been asked to urgently study the pros and cons of setting up a fund to help the stock market, which has continuously been rattled by COVID-19 news in major western countries. Somkid said US measures such as travel restrictions have sent shock waves through stock markets around the world.
Form and size of such a fund must be appropriate and effective, Somkid said.
“Investors must be confident that the government, the central bank and the Finance Ministry are always there come what may,” he said.
Wednesday, March 11, 2020: News reports mentioned a “cordial atmosphere” between Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Democrat leader Jurin Laksanavisit on Tuesday, amid calls for the latter to pull his party out of the government coalition. Political speech interpreters did not see a real bad sign, either.
“I probably had a quick mouth this morning,” Prayut told reporters again Tuesday afternoon, hours after saying things along the lines of “They can do it if they love to”, referring to suggestions the Democrats should stop “rowing the boat for bandits”.
He said he gave all coalition partners a free hand on matters like whether they would stay with him or not. “It’s a matter that each party must address by itself. When you asked me in the morning, I must have shot my mouth off (which I shouldn’t have),” he said.
Separately, Commerce Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Jurin practically said some outspoken members should have watched it. “We are not an autonomous state,” he said, while emphasising that as the party leader, he listened to all members’ opinions. “We do our best, and we also realise that others have their duties that we must respect.”
Deputy Democrat leader and Deputy Interior Minister Niphon Bunyamanee said the “rowing the boat” rhetoric was simply not right, because the Democrats always made decisions as a collective, and no individual can have his or her wish on matters like joining or leaving the government.
“To basically say that the party collectively decided to row the boat for bandits is not right,” he said.
Tuesday, March 10, 2020: Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanavisit has pledged that his ministry “will spare nobody” in the investigation into an on-going face mask controversy which is threatening to become the biggest crisis of the Prayut government.
Jurin’s party has been facing calls for it to pull out of the Prayut coalition, amid the developing scandal that has forced Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao to deny any connection. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has angrily brushed aside talks about a Democrat withdrawal.
“The Commerce Ministry is directly concerned with a few main issues,” Jurin said. “Is it true that someone is in possession of millions of masks without informing the authorities? Is that profiteering? Is that hoarding?”
He said he has instructed his ministry’s investigators to “go all the way and spare nobody”. Cynics might think he said what he had to say, and question whether Jurin’s remarks were in fact a veiled assurance that he would keep working amid the pull-out calls, some of them made by certain Democrats themselves.
Monday, March 9, 2020: If fears of a local outbreak are helping the Prayut government when it comes to street protests, the prime minister cannot be thankful for the issue of face mask hoarding that is badly affecting the administration’s rating, not least because the name of a controversial Cabinet member is all over the scandal.
Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompow has been forced to deny any connection with a massive hoarding and profiteering of face masks, but the issue is threatening to outpace the virus spread in Thailand. Conventional media outlets have picked up on it, and the social media have targeted him and the government in general.
Allies voiced disagreement when Thammanat’s name was in Prayut Chan-o-cha’s Cabinet list, and the former’s backgrounds were questioned even before news emerged from Australia about his controversial past activities. After the recent censure debate, many Democrats said they were dissatisfied with how Thammanat answered the opposition’s questions.
And now comes allegations linking him to a man responsible for massive face mask profiteering. The allegations have come amid opinion polls showing declining faith in state measures against COVID-19.
Sunday, March 8, 2020: COVID-19 features highly and significantly in separate opinion polls, which show Thais’ growing concern about the virus and decreasing faith in the government.
Super Poll shows measures carried out by the private sector, like free distribution of masks and free meals for quarantined people, received significantly more support than the government’s legal measures which include jail terms for those hiding key medical information. Most importantly is a high level of opposition to free distribution of state money to cope with the economic aspects of the medical crisis.
Dusit Poll, surveying 1,162 Thais a few days ago, shows the biggest worry was economic hardships (78.4%), whereas COVID-19 came second (71.4%). Crime (64.5%) was third, and political divide (58.9%) was fourth.
The Super Poll survey shows all private-sector measures received over 90% of support or approval, whereas approval or support for the government measures were in the 84-89% range. To be fair, humanitarianism might have come into play in that, but most remarkable is that up to 71 % of the people surveyed did not think giving away 2,000 baht to each recipient at the time of the medical crisis is appropriate.
Saturday, March 7, 2020: Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has blamed “too little time” to screen election candidates for the defections of certain MPs of the dissolved party to the government bloc.
Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand on Friday, Thanathorn said the time constraints prevented him from finding all candidates with genuine anti-military stand to run for this party. He suggested that the defectors had wavering ideological stances.
“I have had a painful lesson and I feel betrayed,” he said. “Our party said unequivocally before the election that we would never join dictatorship.”
On the possibility that he would face serious criminal action that might even land him in jail, Thanathorn said: “To tell the truth, I don’t want to end up there, because my youngest child is only 15 months old. But take it from me, I won’t run.”
Friday, March 6, 2020: Plenty more support will be required for a motion calling for a special House session to discuss student activism, according to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.
Three small parties have called for the special parliamentary discussion on the “flash mob” protests by university students in the wake of the dissolution of the Future Forward Party, but only three MPs have signed it, Chuan said. One third of the total members of the Senate and House of Representatives will be needed to support and thus kick-start such a session, he added.
“So far, there have been no signs from both Houses as well as the government,” Chuan said.
However, Pichet Sathirachawal, leader of the Prachatham Party who signed the motion, was adamant that his campaign was not dead yet. A move is underway to gather more signatures, he insisted.
Thursday, March 5, 2020: A deputy Pheu Thai leader has called on all opposition MPs to quit Parliament en masse in order to make the Prayut government “illegitimate”.
In a strongly-worded Facebook post, deputy Pheu Thai leader Nakorn Machim also called for a “peaceful” uprising among basically everyone in Thailand who believes that this government is to blame for the economic hardships.
Calling the Prayut administration “a dictatorship in disguise”, Nakorn said it would lose all the legitimacy in the eyes of the outside world if all opposition MPs resigned from Parliament.
He hailed the on-going university protests but called on all concerned to avoid violence.
Wednesday, March 4, 2020: At a meeting on March 3, Pheu Thai MPs expressed extreme disappointment with their counterparts in the former Future Forward Party, saying the latter tarnished the biggest opposition camp’s reputation with a press conference on “unfair” time allocation during the censure debate.
The Pheu Thai MPs also wanted their leader, Sompong Amornwiwat, to find out if any senior Pheu Thai member was part of the press conference which has become a major thorn in the side of the major opposition allies’ relationship.
Calls for Pheu Thai and Future Forward to let bygones be bygones have increased in the wake of the censure, amid concern that the conflict might disrupt the momentum of university students’ protests against the dissolution of the Future Forward Party. The protests, observers say, have the potential to grow into a major anti-government and pro-charter amendment drive, which still requires political mobilisation and organisation that Pheu Thai is good at.
Many hope an imminent “Thank You” party to be hosted by Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit would pacify Pheu Thai and revitalise their alliance, which has been somewhat weakened considering what was said during the Pheu Thai meeting.
Tuesday, March 3, 2020: Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak and Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana have been asked by the prime minister to come up an economic answer to the threats posed by the usual suspects and the new, fearsome villain in the form of a virus.
“I’m not talking politics today,” was Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s reply when asked by reporters about a rumoured Cabinet reshuffle and the political situation in general, which has grown increasingly unpredictable. “I’m focusing on the COVID-19 problem.”
He would not give details, but government spokesperson Narumon Pinyosinwat told reporters the prime minister had asked Somkid and Uttama “as an urgent matter” to produce a proposed solution to the economic threats which are apparently coming in a chain reaction amid the spread and domestic and global fears of the virus.
The proposed solution must be put forward to the government’s economic team and then the whole Cabinet “as soon as possible,” Narumon said.
There are no other important details, but, apparently, the tourism-promotion method that proved successful in the form of the “Chim, Shop, Chai” programme might not work as well this time, as fears of the virus have made many people cancel planned trips and stay home.
Monday, March 2, 2020: Buoyed by students’ anti-government protests which they claim are catching fire, the opposition parties are attempting to mend the fences between the Pheu Thai Party and Future Forward leaders. The bloc has also vowed to do its utmost to publicise the information that it delivered during the censure debate which was somehow overshadowed by the COVID-19 outbreak and other issues.
Future Forward, which was dissolved as a political party a few days ago, triggering the protests by university students, plans to host a thank-you party for its own MPs and allies on March 4, amid calls for the camp and the Pheu Thai Party, the biggest in the opposition bloc, to end public quarrelling over time allocation during the censure.
MPs of the former Future Forward Party are expected to register as members of a new party, whose name will be revealed this week, or around the same time as the thank-you party.
At a meeting today, in which all opposition parties were represented, it was agreed that the problem between Pheu Thai and Future Forward should be water under the bridge. It was also agreed that all censure information must be put online for the public to access, and “off-Parliament” forums should take place, possibly in all of the regions of Thailand, to repeat what was said during the censure and put forward information that might have escaped attention or was totally missed out due to time constraints.
Sunday, March 1, 2020: A former key man of the Pheu Thai Party, Surapong Suebwonglee, has called for an end to the heated verbal and Facebook exchanges between his camp and Future Forward in the wake of the censure debate, saying the showdown would weaken the “pro-democracy” side.
MPs of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party had accused Pheu Thai of time wasting at the censure, saying the alleged tactic deprived them of valuable minutes to deliver crucial information on the last day of the no-confidence debate. A Pheu Thai “conspiracy” with the government was alluded to.
The accusation, endorsed by former secretary general of Future Forward, Piyabutr Sangkanokkul, triggered a back-and-forth war of words between the two opposition camps, leading to increasing worries that the conflict would play into the government’s hand.
In a Facebook post, Surapong insisted that Pheu Thai needs a structural reform as the party now appears to have leaders who are at odds. This has somehow affected the party’s parliamentary work and general performance, not least the censure. Future Forward, meanwhile, should realise that it needs allies, particularly if its goal is lofty.
“It’s hard to find good people, and it’s harder still to find people who are good at mobilisation,” he said. He explained that an ideological drive can never succeed through a one-man show, as the campaign requires good mobilisers who know how to make people with differences push for a common goal.
Saturday, February 29, 2020: Many roads are leading to Korn Chatikavanij’s Kla Party, which may become an ideological melting pot for ideologically-divided Thailand.
Politicians from both sides of the national divide are said to be contemplating joining the new party. The latest buzz was generated by a Facebook post which indicated some former members of Future Forward, which has lost its status as a political party recently, might join Kla.
Korn’s party has been compared to the dissolved Future Forward Party, which sought support from “silent power” as well as those tired of divisive politics. Future Forward, however, was immediately drawn into one side of the national divide, admittedly through some of its own action.
Korn has the support of many pro-Democrat members but his party is not seen as the enemy of “the other side” either. This has led to reports and speculation that his party can bring together a lot of people with different backgrounds and ideologies. His challenge is how to make his party grow sustainably without being dominated by either side of the political polarisation.
His statement that he did not want his party to grow “too fast” or unnaturally was welcomed by neutral analysts, who agree, however, that it is easier said than done.
Friday, February 28, 2020: The opposition has been troubled by clear signs of “cobras” and conflicts between the Pheu Thai Party and MPs of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, while some Democrats have lined up against Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompow.
Who should be worried more? Time-allocation conflicts between Pheu Thai and MPs of the dissolved party look serious enough, with a press conference by the latter in the wake of the censure debate and prior to the crucial vote joined by Future Forward big guns, who pointed unmistakeable fingers at the biggest opposition party. Future Forward MPs and leaders all but directly accused Pheu Thai of stabbing them in the back in order to cushion censure impact on the government.
Signs of conflicts had appeared before the censure, with Pheu Thai apparently reluctant to attack Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan. Pheu Thai’s allegedly shrewd use of censure time allocated to opposition speakers during the no-confidence debate prevented MPs from the Future Forward camp from delivering their utmost performances, the latter said.
To add to that, the government insisted Prawit received two votes of confidence from Pheu Thai and three from Seri Ruam Thai, another opposition party, whose leader, Seripisut Temiyavet, is one of the most outspoken critics of the administration.
But despite comfortably winning the no-confidence battle and being able to give the opposition a “cobra” taunt, the government is far from happy. What must worry the coalition the most is the simmering resentment of university students against the dissolution of Future Forward, and post-censure manoeuvring of some Democrats.
The Democrat Party huddled after the censure and before the vote and a sizeable number of its MPs did not think Thammanat answered questions clearly. In a very rare move, the Democrats reportedly voted among themselves to decide how they should vote when Thammanat was concerned. According to Trang MP Satit Wongnongtoey, up to 17 Democrat MPs did not want to give Thammanat their votes of confidence. That number was remarkably high but still defeated by a majority of 24, Satit said.
Thursday, February 27, 2020: The no-confidence debate was jolted into non-political excitement on Wednesday evening with a disclosure that a Palang Pracharat MP had just returned from Japan with a bit of a fever.
Attakorn Sirilattayakorn, a party-list MP of Palang Pracharat, confirmed that a fellow MP had returned from Japan a few days ago, but insisted that doctors had confirmed her fever was a result of a normal flu. He did admit, though, that she is still having medical checks regularly.
More masks went up immediately in the assembly hall following the disclosure by the Pheu Thai Party and Attakorn’s confirmation. Official and private discussions inside the hall switched toward the outbreak and cautionary measures at Parliament, with some MPs saying that if the virus had been in the compound, people who put up the masks too late were acting in vain.
Meanwhile, businesses and news commentators have mentioned what looks like the virus’ imminent impact on upcoming Songkran, which usually brings tourists and local revellers together. The festival generated a major revenue for Thailand’s tourism annually.
Wednesday, February 26, 2020: Every administration is guaranteed to win censure vote, but serious and well-researched allegations with strong evidence can catch fire later. In the past, they led to bad splits among coalition parties, high-profile ministerial transfers or even collapse of government alliances.
The on-going censure debate, though, is not imprinting anything in public minds except old, unsettled ideological issues that everyone knows about and leaving the conventional and social media little to pursue. When the House speaker’s wisecrack on how Prayut Chan-o-cha should be referred to _ as Mister Prime Minister or just Mister _ dominated news reports about the no-confidence showdown, it was not funny as far as the opposition was concerned.
Whether or not the dissolution of the Future Forward Party would snowball remains to be seen. But it looks like the opposition needs to significantly up its game in the few censure hours it has left in order to make the whole deal worthwhile.
Strategically speaking, the opposition perhaps should have done things differently. MPs of the now-defunct Future Forward Party, for example, spoke eloquently but they did it like academics dissecting state policies, a performance that can be praiseworthy at a budget debate but can do little to hurt the government at censure. Thai Liberal Party (Seri Ruam Thai) leader Seripisut Temiyavet, meanwhile, has revoked the oath recital controversy as expected, playing into the hands of the government which gleefully made tactical protests that killed time in the process.
The increasingly scary COVID-19 and dust situations as well as the “Cobras” issue did not help, either.
Tuesday, February 25, 2020: What’s happening in Parliament is struggling to match what’s occurring outside it. Students’ protests against the dissolution of the Future Forward Party, and some of its MPs defecting to the government’s side are receiving massive attention in the traditional and social media.
“I voted for you because I liked the party. Get that into your head,” one pro-Future Forward Twitter user said this to an MP who is reportedly joining Bhumjaithai.
In fact, Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit had suggested he knew it all along. He used to say Future Forward needed only “real steel”. That statement was seen as him alluding to suspicion that not every Future Forward MP shared its ideology, and that quite a few election candidates only wanted to take advantage of the Thanathorn fever.
But whatever influenced the so-called “Cobras”, Future Forward fans are not happy. Pro-Future Forward social media accounts have shown varying degrees of disappointment.
“I have been crying so hard,” a woman said on her Facebook. “Me too,” several said in their comments.
Monday, February 24, 2020: The “Future Forward Group”, or “committee”, as the dissolved party is calling itself now, has begun its “non-parliamentary” task in style by accusing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of being involved in Malaysia’s biggest corruption scandal of the modern days.
In parallel with the on-going censure debate in the Thai Parliament, Future Forward is carrying out a no-confidence session of its own. Its first bombshell allegation was that Prayut, while he ruled with summary powers in the wake of his 2014 coup, could have helped former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak take care of loose ends in the 1MDB scandal a few years back.
The financial scandal, which led to Najib’s political downfall, involved paying way over the top from the massive development fund to project owners with political connections and silencing of perceived whistleblowers or those in possession of secret information. Future Forward suggested some “fugitives” fled to Thailand which turned out to be anything but a refuge.
The Thai government has vowed to sue Future Forward, which responded by saying it was not accusing “this” government, so any lawsuit should be filed by Prayut directly. Future Forward spokeswoman Pannika Wanich insisted that the allegation was serious.
Sunday, February 23, 2020: As of now, the number of people interested in the industrial dust situation is three times higher than those who think the no-confidence debate against the Prayut government is the biggest issue, according to Super Poll.
The poll’s analytic assessment of Thais’ online activities has found that 36.8 million Thais were more aware of, worried by and interested in the daily changes of the dust situation than the oncoming censure. About 11.5 million Thais gave more importance to the no-confidence issue.
Another recent survey, Dusit Poll, showed big percentages of Thais have adopted a “Help yourself because nobody is going to help you” approach to key issues, namely the economic problems, the coronavirus threats and public safety. This group is either the biggest or second biggest concerning those issues, swapping places with Thais who pin their utmost hope on the prime minister.
Saturday, February 22, 2020: Amid an uproar in the wake of the Constitution Court’s ruling dissolving the Future Forward Party, the prime minister’s Facebook post asking Thais to accept the verdict has been deleted.
Many people were surprised by the delete, as the wording of the post looked straightforward enough. In it, Prayut Chan-o-cha, whose government benefits from the opposition’s reduced numbers in Parliament, said the judges’ ruling should be accepted and there were still means to carry out checks and balances in the Thai political system of constitutional monarchy.
“Strange” was a short but telltale comment by reporter Wassana Nanuam in her tweet.
Friday, February 21, 2020: Future Forward is no longer a political party, it said so itself, defiantly, after the Constitutional Court ended its parliamentary existence.
Future Forward’s Facebook page has shown its logo with the word “party” marked out, after the court’s ruling was handed down.
A press conference was taking place, and more defiant messages would come thick and fast, but the “new” logo was the first symbolic act that virtually generated a strong pledge that Future Forward and its outspoken leaders are not going anywhere.
It’s certain that they will go door-to-door, or hit the street and continue their ideological campaign as much as legally allowed.
Thursday, February 20, 2020: Anything can get politicised these days, and issues less debatable than supposed government requests for a patriotic film portraying heroic soldiers have to face political storms.
So, the Future Forward Party’s opposition to a government idea of making a movie like that is not a surprise. A Future Forward MP, who used to lead Thai film directors’ association, said that kind of movies is nothing but dictators trying to force-feed the public their ideas.
To be fair, though, using films to propagate political ideologies or present lopsided stories is a universal tactic, employed the most noticeably by America.
Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, the Future Forward MP, also proposed an alternative to the government’s idea. “Instead of having films that praise the military, we should have films that highlight its flaws, so lessons can be learned,” he said.
His party faces a moment of truth tomorrow, when the Constitutional Court is scheduled to rule on the explosive case of Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit lending a large amount of money to his own party.
**Photo from Tanwarin’s Facebook
Wednesday, February 19, 2020: The House anti-corruption committee has been asked by its pro-government members to investigate the mother of Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and find out whether some land she owns is totally lawful.
The demand came as the House committee was looking at complaints against the family of government MP Pareena Kraikupt which has been accused of possessing some contentious land. Government MPs in the House panel said that the committee, chaired by an outspoken opposition leader, Seripisut Temiyavet, must treat all allegations or suspicion “equally” to prevent charges of prejudices.
Seripisut replied that the committee would fairly handle every charge or complaint as long as they are filed properly. The suspicion against Thanathorn’s mother was brought up during the House committee’s meeting by a Bhumjai Thai MP and triggered a chorus of support from other government members of the panel.
Land-grabbing in Thailand is believed to be rampant among people with political connections and take place on both sides of the political divide.
Tuesday, February 18, 2020: A Facebook page has publicised an interview of a deputy Pheu Thai leader, who has conveyed an apparent doom-and-gloom message from Thaksin Shinawatra.
Deputy Pheu Thai leader Nakhon Machim talked with Thaksin lately and the latter predicted Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha would remain in power for at least eight years and up to 20 years.
“He (Thaksin) sees the Thai Parliament and he is in despair,” Nakhon said. “The only way he can come home is through a chorus of calls from Thai people.”
According to Nakhon, Thaksin sees himself as the ultimate enemy of the state because the former leader had possessed the three prerequisites _ money, mass and political power.
Thaksin, Nakhon said, thought Prayut represented an ideal that was in control at the moment, and even if something happened to Prayut, a replacement would be handy and so forth.
Monday, February 17, 2020: The biggest sports news of the hours is reminding many of Thailand’s biggest political issue.
To cut a long story short, UEFA (The Union of European Football Associations) has decided to ban Manchester City from key European competitions for two years and impose a heavy fine of 25 million pounds. UEFA found the club guilty of seriously breaching the Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations by disguising the club’s owner’s own money, spent on players’ purchases, among other things, as sponsor’s money.
FFP limits how club owners spend money on their football teams. Two primary reasons are that 1. owners shouldn’t go for broke and overspend on player purchases, thus risking bankruptcy or other future financial trouble and 2. the restrictions help create some fairness for poorer clubs.
It’s the logic behind the latter reason that apparently is the crux of contention in the Future Forward Party’s “loan” controversy. Some say the Constitution does not allow political parties to borrow big from their leaders because the borrowing can be hard to prove. In other words, parties can get big amounts of money from rich leaders in the form of “loans” , making the political playing field imbalanced.
Others say the Future Forward loans provided by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit were genuine, openly-reported borrowings, made necessary because of years under military rule that prevented political parties from getting the funding they needed.
In politics, things get a little more subtle still. While football clubs can use the term “owner(s)”, it’s debatable whether we should say Future Forward “belongs to” Thanathorn, or whether Future Forward “is led by” Thanathorn. Some say no specific individuals should “own” a political party, but others say that is too idealistic to be practical.
What the Thai Constitutional Court will say about the whole issue will be known soon.
Sunday, February 16, 2020: Good news is that the Thai public seem satisfied with how the Prayut government has handled the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak so far. Bad news is that they are worried a lot more about food on the table.
That appears to be the main message of the latest Super Poll survey of 1,302 Thais over the past few days. More than 71% thought the government was paying proper attention to the medical crisis. A good majority, nearly 69%, said they were satisfied with how concerned state agencies had handled the situation.
However, for the people surveyed, COVID-19 was not their utmost concern. An overwhelming majority, 77.4%, said what worried them the most was the economic trouble that could reduce their earnings. The rest said the disease worried them the most.
Saturday, February 15, 2020: The on-going countdown to the Constitutional Court ruling on the Future Forward Party’s “borrowing” of funds from its leader is showing growing signs of future trouble, with campaigns pros and against the new political camp promising to intensify in the next few days and beyond the judgement day.
An online signature campaign has begun for the party, whose members have also been urged to file complaints against the Election Commission nationwide. Critics of the moves have hit back, citing, among other things, the potential for contempt of court and the possibility of putting undue pressure on the judges before they hand down a ruling.
No matter what the verdict is, analysts see the continuity, or likely an increase, of political divide that has stalled national progress, promoted social illness and upended moral standards over the years.
Friday, February 14, 2020: House Speaker Chuan Leekpai has effectively greeted the formation of a new political party, Kla, by warning that military opportunism is no longer “the only enemy” of democratic politics.
“In the past, military dictatorship was the sole obstacle to democratic development, but today’s situation is a lot more complicated,” he said while giving a speech as an honorary speaker at a forum hosted by the Political and Electoral Development Institute.
“Let’s just say we never thought that after finding ways to contain Cholera we will have to deal with the HIV,” he said. A new big threat to democracy is undue influences of business people whose activities can spread major political diseases, according to the former Democrat leader.
Unscrupulous money can buy everything _ checks and balances organism which is supposed to be fully independent, votes in Parliament, the justice system and the media, he said.
“Everything has its financial value, and that’s dangerous,” he said, stressing that all political parties, old and new, must strive to contain the new political virus.
Thursday, February 13, 2020: In his Facebook post, Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit insisted that what happened recently in Nakhon Ratchasima “must not end with the tears of the Army commander.”
He claimed the incident cried out for a reform of the Thai military to end an environment conducive to superiors taking advantage of people working under their commands.
“The incident must not end with the tears of the Army commander, but it should lead to a total reform of the military to end a culture of superiors taking advantage of their inferiors,” Thanathorn wrote.
Reports say the man who carried out the random killing spree apparently took the action after being upset by a property deal that allegedly involved a commander and took advantage of him. The government, meanwhile, has urged the public to view the tragedy as a one-off incident and not blame the system for it.
Thanathorn’s Facebook post also said the military must be “transparent” and produce safety for all Thais.
Wednesday, February 12, 2020: A lot of people are waiting to see what name Korn Chatikavanij will give his new political party. That is supposed to be revealed on the Valentines’ Day, but what his supporters, friends and foes are really interested in concerns how the man himself will do.
“Old wine in a new bottle” is one of the most common political cliches, and it usually accompanies every political rebrand. However, Korn’s unique political characteristics that make him one of the least confrontational political leaders over the years have given rise to positive political sentiment. Can he become a true “alternative”, one that is not divisive or seen as divisive?
Thai politics requires populism, nepotism and ability to deal effectively with factionalism _ in other words all elements that court corruption and injustice in society. The toughest challenge of Korn, who is on the verge of unveiling his own political party, is how to find a way to rise above all that.
Tuesday, February 11, 2020: Widespread sharing of tragic photos, proliferation of false rumours and pretentious “copycat” postings in the wake of the Nakhon Ratchasima bloodshed are among reasons why Thailand’s computer laws can get remarkably tougher.
According to Puttipong Punnakanta, the minister of digital economy and society, the authorities are looking into online problems stemming from the Korat incident and possible ways to solve or tackle them.
“We need to increase penalties and expand rules,” he said. “The social media have evolved faster than the state’s capacity to handle them effectively.”
An order has been given for the authorities concerned to review laws and penalties with post-Korat lessons in mind, he added.
Monday, February 10, 2020: Thailand stands to lose up to Bt100 billion in tourism revenue over the months if the coronavirus crisis is not resolved soon, according to the Tourism Council of Thailand.
A few figures were involved in that. For example, each Chinese tourist spends about Bt50,000 per week in Thailand, and up to 2 million Chinese tourists are either disappearing or will disappear soon unless the coronavirus situation improves significantly. If the crisis drags on for a few more months, Asian countries relying on tourism such as Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan will take big economic hits.
The Thai council also noted that the Thai tourism industry employs 10 million people, both in direct and indirect businesses, so a chain reaction to the overall local economy is likely.
Chairat Rattanajarasporn, senior president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, said that the threat of the country having fewer tourists who are not Chinese was real. The crisis is making mqny want to stay home and those who travel may avoid Asian destinations.
Sunday, February 9, 2020: Soccer players using their hands to form mini hearts after scoring is one thing, a prime minister acting like a celebrity while visiting the scene of a brutal and tragic incident is another. There are times and places for gestures, but Prayut Chan-o-cha, critics say, apparently needs to learn about that.
His visit to Nakhon Ratchasima following the shooting spree that left many people dead and injured ended up a political mess, with critics saying it was too much politicised and did not reflect the gravity of the situation.
Social media posts have lambasted him, and many of them seemingly came from politically neutral Thais. One said that although nobody should need a tutor on how to behave during such trips, Prayut absolutely should.
Saturday, February 8, 2020: Tell us the truth. That’s what the majority of respondents to an opinion poll said when asked what they wanted the Prayut government to do the most when the coronavirus is concerned.
Bangkok Poll surveyed 1,199 Thais on the public health crisis over the past few days. On the question of what they wanted the government to do the most regarding the coronavirus, 66.7% said they want to know everything and do not want the government to hide anything. The same group also wanted the government to deal effectively with rumours or fake news.
What the surveyed Thais wanted next are mobilisation of qualified medical personnel to cope with the crisis and thorough information on how to protect themselves.
Over 20% said they were “very” worried. About 42% were “fairly worried”. Over 37% were either the lest worried or not worried at all.
Vast majorities have confidence in the ability of Thai health personnel to handle the crisis yet they want all news provided by the government and media to be accompanied by information on protective measures.
Friday, February 7, 2020: Piyabutr Sangkanokkul has pledged that his Future Forward Party’s censure information would not go to waste even if party leaders were not able to deliver it in Parliament after a crucial Constitutional Court verdict.
The secretary-general of the Future Forward Party acknowledged the possibility of the February 21 verdict cancelling some party MPs rights to speak at the no-confidence debate, scheduled to take place between February 25 and 26 with a potential extension to February 27. But he said his party’s leaders would “go on tour” to publicise the information, “which would definitely end the government’s legitimacy.”
The court is scheduled to rule on whether it was unconstitutional for the party to borrow a huge amount of money from its leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. A guilty verdict would lead to harsh penalties against party leaders or even dissolution of the party entirely. Either scenario would seriously affect Future Forward’s participation in the censure.
“Nothing can stop us from sharing the (censure) information,” Piyabutr said.
Thursday, February 6, 2020: For someone accused of massive tax evasion and interfering with financial institutions, Thaksin Shinawatra’s preaching that the economic system should better serve the poor, not the rich, is intriguing and being questioned online.
Thaksin wrote the following as a guest writer for an English-language website about Thailand: “This fear (among Thai banks of helping the poor) coupled with the serving-the-rich mentality has created a cycle that could bring our country to its knees. The banks in our country are helping to make the rich become richer while they are letting the poor get poorer.”
The paragraph pretty much reflected the main theme of Thaksin’s article _ the rich and powerful taking all financial advantage they can see, leaving behind those whom financial institutions could not care less about.
“In Thailand today what we see is that the banks are giving all the support to the conglomerates who are getting bigger by the day while the general population are scrambling to even get their working capital from these financial institutions,” he wrote.
Parts of Thaksin’s article, published a few days ago and picked up by certain Thai-language media outlets, are going viral on the social media, with a number of people mentioning legal cases that took place while Thaksin was in power and after his downfall, notably his allegedly massive tax evasions and suspicious state-run bank lending that served those with political connections.
Wednesday, February 5, 2020: The opposition has suggested that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha can expect a lot of references to his “contempt for democracy” charges during the censure debate, although such criticism might be deemed irrelevant by House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.
“You wait and see,” Pheu Thai spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ard said regarding whether the opposition would dig into the past and chastise Prayut’s role as a coup leader. “Let’s see whether charges that he is the one who tore up Thailand’s Constitution matter or not.”
Prayut is among six Cabinet members named in the opposition’s censure motion. Whether criticism related to his 2014 coup would be allowed or deemed relevant by the House speaker remains to be seen. Those who think it should not be allowed said it was divisive, was related to common knowledge and thus should not be revisited unless the opposition has some information that the Thai public have not known. Those who think it should be allowed said the criticism has a lot to do with democratic leadership.
Anusorn suggested the opposition is in the latter group. “It’s up to the House speaker to decide. But (he should be aware that) what should or should not be done in this country has been dictated by the government, which should not be happening in a democracy,” he said.
Censure might take place between February 25-27, with the voting on February 28. “For five years, Gen Prayut ruled with a blank cheque. Not any more,” Anusorn said.
Tuesday, February 4, 2020: Whispers of discontent within the opposition’s bloc over former New Economics leader Mingkwan Saengsuwan’s plan to be part of the censure attacks against the Prayut Cabinet are getting louder.
Following his insistence that he would keep his MP status because he wanted to join the censure to honour voters who supported his party’s anti-military stand in last year’s election, some opposition figures and their supporters are claiming it’s a win-win for New Economics but lose-lose for the rest of the opposition.
Here’s the situation: New Economics executives have resolved to “leave” the opposition alliance. Since the party has not yet joined the Prayut coalition, it can only be _ and has vowed to be _ an “independent” opposition camp. In other words, New Economics has disavowed toeing the opposition’s line in any voting if it deems fit. Former leader Mingkwan has denounced the resolution, but he has not cut the ties with the party entirely, due to fears that losing party membership would deprive him of the right to speak against the government at the censure debate.
This has led to a Facebook criticism by a leading pro-opposition activist, Nuttaa Mahattana. Her strongly-worded post said, “If the opposition is stupid, it should let Mingkwan continue to reap popularity that way. In fact, it’s not only stupid, but also unfair to the other (opposition parties).”
Her comment has won support from a senior member of the Future Forward Party. Pongsakorn Rodchompoo, a party list MP and deputy Future Forward leader, responded to her post in a comment: “I agree. How many times have they been duped by this kind of parties?”
Monday, February 3, 2020: Former New Economics Party leader Mingkwan Saengsuwan has reiterated his anti-Prayut stance and confirmed his heart remained firmly with the opposition bloc, but his intention to attack the government during the censure debate is preventing him from cutting the ties with the party completely.
Mingkwan lambasted the New Economics Party’s new leadership for having resolved to “leave” the opposition alliance and become “independent”, saying his decision to remain with the bloc was because he wanted to honour voters who supported the party in last year’s election.
“Now that we (I and other New Economics executives) no longer share the same ideology, there’s no point staying together,” he said. But he needed to remain with New Economics to preserve his right to speak against the government at the censure debate.
“Half a million people supported my (anti-Prayut) stand during the election. What would they say if I just disappeared?” Mingkwan said, responding to a question why he did not immediately resign from the New Economics Party.
Sunday, February 2, 2020: A clear majority of Thais surveyed by NIDA pollsters are strongly opposed to MPs handling parliamentary cards of their peers, particularly during voting processes.
The latest NIDA poll was conducted between January 29-31 and 1,254 Thais were surveyed. A whopping 80% of them deemed inserting other MPs’ cards or asking other MPs to insert cards on ones’ behalves a highly irresponsible or unethical act. Almost 9 % even considered the mishandling of the electronic cards as being tantamount to adding salt to the wound of the bad Thai economy, particularly if the Budget Bill passage is overturned.
Almost 46% wanted the MPs involved in the Budget Bill voting controversy to “show responsibility” by resigning from Parliament. A remarkable 19.6% wanted Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign as well. Another 19.5% wanted Parliament to fire the MPs involved.
Almost 12% thought the MPs involved should be banned from politics for life.
Saturday, February 1, 2020: How the New Economics Party will behave itself during the no-confidence debate remains to be seen, but the Thai public is likely to see its former leader Mingkwan Saengsuwan speak out against the government at the session.
According to opposition and Pheu Thai leader Sompong Amornwiwat, Mingkwan is among 20-30 MPs earmarked as pro-opposition debaters. This is despite the fact that the New Economics Party has resolved to “leave” the opposition alliance and become “independent.”
Mingkwan’s role is another issue highlighting the opposition’s trouble plaguing the censure plan, which has led to the reduction in the number of “targets” from nine to six. The official target list now includes Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai and Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao.
Friday, January 31, 2020: After months of rumours, the New Economics Party has informed its opposition allies that it is leaving them. Where it goes from here _ or where it wants to go _ should not be hard to guess.
In a January 30 letter to the opposition leader, acting New Economics leader Supadich Akasariksha officially notified him of a party vote supporting a resolution to become “independent.” By that, the party is effectively saying it does not need to toe the opposition bloc’s lines in any voting.
News reports have hinted at the possibility of the party joining the Prayut coalition for quite some time. Such a scenario, of course, drew silent disagreement among government factions as re-dividing the Cabinet cake could be required. Senior government figures, however, are well aware of the need to strengthen the coalition’s fragile majority control of the House of Representatives.
Problems have rocked New Economics itself, leading to resignation of former leader Mingkwan Saengsuwan. Whether the party’s latest move, which is coming against the backdrop of the opposition’s censure offensive, is tantamount to throwing the ball into the government’s court shall be clear soon enough.
Thursday, January 30, 2020: For its own good, the opposition must deliver on its latest schedule to submit a no-confidence motion, which is supposed to be officially presented to Parliament on Friday, January 31.
According to high-ranking sources in the Pheu Thai Party, nine names including Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will be in the motion, which has been postponed time and again amid speculation that the opposition parties were split over key issues. The long delay has subjected the opposition to much scepticism by politically neutral Thais and ridicule by those supporting the government.
Apart from Prayut, named in the motion include Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao.
Wednesday, January 29, 2020: House Speaker Chuan Leekpai is making the rounds, being an honourable guest at meetings of House committees, amid growing concern that partisan politics could disrupt the panels’ supposedly unbiased work for the public.
Drawing much media attention was his attendance at a meeting of the House anti-corruption committee, where flare-ups have been reported between government and opposition MPs.
Talking to reporters afterwards, Chuan admitted that media reports about political quarrelling worried him.
“I’m taking an opportunity to observe what was going on (at House anti-corruption committee meetings),” Chuan said. “My only motive is to give everyone encouragement and facilitate teamwork. If the House committee cannot work smoothly, public complaints (or tip-offs) could face a delay.”
He added that “It is all right” for opposition MPs to call for a probe into how he is doing his job, but calls for House anti-corruption committee chairman Seripisut Temiyavet to be investigated “are not supposed to happen.”
Tuesday, January 28, 2020: Latest comments by deputy Democrat leader Prinn Panichpakdi on his relationship with Korn Chatikavanij only serves to make the situation within the Democrat Party more curious.
Of course, Prinn strongly denied that he and Korn, who has left the party a few days ago, have been at odds over their economic roles, but the former’s description of Korn as his “idol”, as his “friend”, as his “big brother” and as his “father” makes the latter’s move even more puzzling.
Recent reports said Korn left the Democrat Party after about a decade and a half because he felt belittled regarding his formerly big status as the party’s economic guru, among other issues. But in a lengthy media interview, Prinn said younger-generation Democrats often sought, and always got, Korn’s advice on key economic affairs of Thailand.
“We learned a lot from him and we talked and exchanged opinions all the time,” Prinn, who, like Korn, wields a rather impressive economic pedigree, said. “He’s my true idol whom I love. He’s my friend, my big brother and my father. Apart from economic affairs, we also talked about football, other sports and practically everything.”
Prinn is an important figure among the Democrats’ so-called “Avengers”, who seemingly represent the party’s increased projection of teamwork and youthful outlook.
On how the government has handled the economy, Prinn said every elected administration needed to react to short-term situations, leading to policies like “Chim, Shop, Chai”. He insisted that long-term policies are equally, if not more, important.
Monday, January 27, 2020: Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak is guardedly optimistic that the economic impact of the coronavirus on Thailand’s tourism will not last long, as resort operators and immigration authorities grow increasingly weary of arrivals from China.
“There has been impact but I think it is short-term,” Somkid said, expressing full confidence in the Chinese government’s ability to bring the situation under control.
He said the current impact on Thai tourism can be cushioned by the growing trend among Thais to take vacations in their own country. The deputy prime minister, a leader of the government’s economic team, also advised those in the tourism industry in Thailand not to put all eggs in the Chinese basket.
A big boom in arrivals from China has given birth to tourist businesses that exclusively cater to the Chinese. Those businesses are reportedly being affected the most by global fears of the virus.
Sunday, January 26, 2020: A survey shows Thais want to see the Prayut administration being grilled in a no-confidence debate. Problem is that a considerably smaller percentage expects the opposition to pull off an impressive fight.
NIDA Poll surveyed 1,252 Thais over the past few days. A total of 42.5 % of them loved to see the whole Cabinet censured, whereas 35.5 % suggested censuring individual ministers. Only 5.3 % absolutely did not want to see a no-confidence debate now, while 13.8 % thought the time was not ripe yet.
When it comes to faith in the opposition, 20.7 % said they were “very confident” that information to be presented would be useful, compared with 15.2 % who did not feel confident “at all”. A total of 32.9 % said they were “rather confident” in the opposition’s information, while 28.5 % were skeptical.
Saturday, January 25, 2020: There are issues that shall never be politicised, and one of them is the increasingly fearsome coronavirus, according to academic, commentator and political activist Seri Wongmontha.
He said that while the Thai government and opposition have fought over everything, devaluing each other’s efforts or measures even if there are actually some good in them, both sides should know that politicisation has its limits. Issues like the coronavirus outbreak and the worsening industrial dust problem require political non-partisanship, he emphasised.
“It does not matter whose ideas are better and it should not be about who gets the credit or who should be blamed,” he said. Seri asked anybody with a good plan to come forward because there are times when time can’t be wasted on political manoeuvrings.
Friday, January 24, 2020: Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and former PM’s Office minister Suranand Vejjajiva are among a number of people facing charges that her government’s costly public relations campaign in support of a massive borrowing programme was plagued with irregularities.
Her government attempted to borrow Bt2 trillion for a mega infrastructure development plan, drawing widespread criticism from the public and the opposition bloc. To promote the plan, which was yet to be approved by Parliament, the government spent Bt240 million hiring public relations strategists, attracting further criticism.
Complaints were filed with the National Anti-Corruption Commission, and its investigating arm has decided to recommend charging her, Suranand and a number of people in the private sector in connection with the PR campaign.
The PR issue was hotly debated at the time, as it required a big amount of taxpayers’ money to advocate an idea that was not even passed by Parliament yet. There were also allegations of irregularities in the PR hiring process.
The borrowing plan was among key issues that triggered serious charges against the Yingluck government, leading to street protests and finally the 2014 coup.
Thursday, January 23, 2020: House Speaker Chuan Leekpai has insisted that there is no circumstance whatsoever that can allow MPs to handle their peers’ parliamentary ID cards, particularly during voting.
His comment came amid a growing controversy that could derail the recently-passed Budget Bill. It has been discovered that some MPs handled other MPs’ cards during a crucial voting process.
During a parliamentary meeting today, Chuan was asked if it was okay for a “forgotten card” to be removed from the counting machine by somebody else (there have been claims the act of removing can be caught on camera and interpreted as the act of inserting), or if MPs can ask their peers to insert the former’s cards for convenience’s sake. Chuan’s answers for both cases were “Absolutely not.”
According to Chuan, even if the card owner is present, he or she can never ask anybody else to insert the card on his or her behalf.
Wednesday, January 22, 2020: Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, has suggested there is now light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to combatting graft in the country.
Public figures are facing tougher, more thorough scrutiny, he said, adding that punishment was swifter and harsher, and the overall justice process seems to have improved.
“Public awareness is now better than before, and the new generation as well as the social media play a big part in that,” he said.
The war is way from over, but the trend is improving, Mana emphasized.
The number of complaints or tip-offs has doubled, and Thai efforts have started to catch the eyes of the international community, he said. Other major factors include the reduction of red tape in public services and tightened rules in government contractual activities, making life of those looking for bribes harder, according to Mana.
But there’s a lot of room for improvement in terms of effectiveness in the political checks and balances and the speed with which action is taken against the famous and wealthy, he said.
Tuesday, January 21, 2020: Buoyed by the Constitutional Court’s decision to drop charges that it seeks to overthrow Thailand’s political system of constitutional monarchy, the Future Forward Party has declared that it would continue its fight against military interferences in political affairs.
“It was not supposed to go to court in the first place,” said Future Forward secretary-general Piyabutr Sangkanokkul.
“It was military intervention in politics that is destroying the current political system. It was not us.”
In finding the party innocent, the Constitutional Court, however, advised Future Forward to make it clearer in the party’s founding doctrine regarding its support for Thailand’s political system. In the written document, the party said it supported “democracy”, leading to charges that it harboured ill intention towards the constitutional monarchy system. The court, obviously, considered the incomplete mentioning of the Thai political system as an honest oversight.
Thanathorn welcomed the court’s decision and said protests against the powers-that-be were parts of fundamental rights in a democracy. He was referring to a recent running event which was dubbed a show of dissatisfaction against the prime minister.
Monday, January 20, 2020: On the eve of a crucial Constitutional Court ruling that might send him and senior colleagues into semi political oblivion, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit distributed masks to Bangkokians amid the worsening industrial dust problem and declared his Future Forward Party’s readiness to face any kind of future.
It’s a come-what-may kind of defiance, shared with Thanathorn by his top lieutenants Piyabutr Sangkanokkul and Pannika Wanich. They will stay at the party’s headquarters instead of going to the court tomorrow (Tuesday, January 21), when the verdict will be handed down on charges that Future Forward is bent on changing the Thai political system of constitutional monarchy.
Today, Thanathorn was asked if he had a “substitute party” in preparation for a possible dissolution of Future Forward. He declined to say anything about what would happen to Future Forward MPs if the worst was to happen.
“Please just wait and see,” he said. “(All I can say is) we are ready no matter what happens to us. He said he and Piyabutr would “go on provincial tours” to campaign on issues affecting the people if they could not do so in Parliament.
Sunday, January 19, 2020: A vast majority of Thais are very concerned about their safety and believe that the problem of serious crimes is worsening, according to the latest Suan Dusit Poll.
The findings were from a survey of 1,365 Thais between January 15-18. The pollsters were motivated by the shocking murder/robbery at a gold shop in Lop Buri recently.
Close to 70 % of respondents say they are feeling less safe and worried more about their assets and properties. More than half of the respondents blame the economy for the deteriorating problem of serious crimes.
More than 80 % of respondents say they are “very” or “fairly” worried about crimes. Only about 17 % are “not worried at all” or “worried just a little.”
Asked what the government should do, 46.5 % want effective implementation of laws and legal revamp to rein in criminals; 43.4 % want close-circuit cameras in public places to really work; and 20.5 % want the people who matter thinks seriously about improving the economy.
Saturday, January 18, 2020: It’s not everyday that Thaksin Shinawatra would be tainted so negatively by mainstream western media. In a Forbes article titled “Crimes Without Punishment: How the Wealthy Before Carlos Ghosn Often Escaped The Law”, he joined the well-known outlet’s unfavourable category of rich fugitives who could have gone to jail in their countries if they had been poor citizens.
The article mentioned the Ratchadapisek land case, in which Thaksin was found guilty, which prompted him to start a life in “political exile.” It also described as “infamous” the sale of Thaksin’s telecom empire to Singapore’s Temasek.
Thaksin’s massive wealth even increased after the escape, according to the article.
Thaksin portrays himself as a political victim and often compared himself to Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, western media’s former darling who has become anything but.
Friday, January 17, 2020: Chalerm Yoobamrung, a key opposition strategist, does not think Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan should be censured unless fresh evidence of wrongdoings has been dug up against him. The opinion, however, is divisive.
Whether or not Prawit’s name should be included in the opposition’s censure motion is a highly contentious issue, which many believe is holding back the opposition’s no-confidence plan. Chalerm has insisted that the luxury watch controversy that had rocked Prawit previously has been debated inside and out, in addition to the deputy prime minister being cleared by the National Anti-Corruption Commission. Unless there were new pieces of evidence or issues against him, Prawit should be let off the hook, Chalerm said.
News reports say other Pheu Thai members have hotly disputed Chalerm’s opinion. Other opposition parties do not entirely agree with him, either.
Prawit has reacted to the news guardedly. But he strongly denied that the “escape” was because he had struck a “secret deal” with Chalerm, who is one of the opposition’s de facto censure leaders.
Thursday, January 16, 2020: Politicians go back on their words everyday, but it will take remarkable efforts to unsay what Chadchart Sittipunt has said regarding rumours that he was forming a political alliance with Korn Chatikavanij.
Chadchart’s social media post praised Korn, who is leaving the Democrat Party, as a person and as a politician, but it unequivocally denied that the two would join forces politically.
“That I and Korn will join hands is simply not true,” said Chadchart, a former Pheu Thai heavyweight who, however, is set to run in the Bangkok gubernatorial election as an independent.
Wednesday, January 15, 2020: His “farewell” was reportedly tearful, but Korn Chatikavanij has made the political scene buzz with speculation that a new, “alternative” political party might be on the horizon.
Korn thanked the Democrat Party, with which he has been for 15 years, but gossips abounded that he felt under-appreciated by Thailand’s oldest political camp, which underwent a leadership revamp last year.
His latest statement has confirmed he would remain in politics, but it stopped short of telling the public exactly what he was planning to do. His “options” seen by mainstream media outlets include joining the Palang Pracharat Party and/or becoming an economic minister; forming a new political party; and running in the Bangkok gubernatorial election.
His future is under as much scrutiny as the future of the Democrat Party, whose former leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, the man he hugged on Tuesday in a symbolic act of goodbye, is also having a diminishing role. Korn’s departure prompted talks _ and denials _ about the party plunging into oblivion.
Rumours that Korn and Chadchart Sittipunt, who is certain to run in the Bangkok gubernatorial election as an independent despite having been with the Pheu Thai Party, will form a formidable political alliance will most likely intensify.
Tuesday, January 14, 2020: Currently, it looks like a trivial, technical controversy, but a court decision to practically allow a massive bidding to go ahead despite being completed beyond the official deadline might set a political time-bomb ticking.
It was a Supreme Administrative Court decision, but attention could swiftly turn to the government, as the matter involves a mega airport development project in U-Tapao and one of the country’s richest and most influential firms.
The Supreme Administrative Court has reversed a ruling of the Administrative Court regarding the selection of private firms bidding to participate in the U-tapao Airport development project and Eastern Aviation City project. To cut a long story short, Thana Holding Co, a firm affiliated with Charoen Pokphand and partners, must be uncorking the champagne.
The secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand (ACT) has questioned Thana Holding Co’s right to be involved. The process of the firm’s bidding submission reportedly took place within the deadline but was completed beyond it, with some documents arriving late.
The airport development project involves an enormous amount of money, in addition to CP being a massive firm with massive interests. Inquiries and criticism are expected to intensify. The issue can be heavily politicised.
Monday, January 13, 2020: The initial date earmarked for submission of the censure motion was December 5, give or take. Now, the opposition is looking at January 20.
The reason provided for the very first delay was that December 5 would risk having the no-confidence debate take place while people were going out shopping or partying during the Christmas and New Year.
New dates were then mooted _ late last year, early January and middle January. Now, the opposition’s main man, Phumtham Wechayachai, is saying January 20 is the likeliest date.
“If we submit the motion sooner, they may set the Chinese New Year as the time for the debate,” said Phumtham, chief adviser of the opposition leader, Sompong Amornwiwat.
The logic for avoiding the Chinese New Year is the same as the one used for avoiding the festive year-end period _ the opposition is afraid that the public would not pay suitable attention to what is said in Parliament while they party, shop, or visit relatives and friends. This somehow goes against the opposition’s initial insistence, when cautioned initially that the government had just started working, that national problems couldn’t wait.
Whether the opposition is right or wrong is debatable. What is undebatable is that Songkran will come soon.
Sunday, January 12, 2020: Optimists must be loving it, but pessimists must be praying. Today’s running and walking events held to show dissatisfaction with and support for the prime minister unfolded like the beginning of every political gathering _ with smiles, promises and carnival-style props.
Thousands took part, converging at Bangkok’s key parks and some other places around Thailand. Although some posters and banners carried strong messages, they looked cute, with child-like paintings or drawings taking out some heat. It was peaceful and participants went home early.
Long may the trend continue.
Saturday, January 11, 2020: Not only will “walkers” and “runners” be active tomorrow (Sunday, January 12), but fault-finders on both side of the Thai political divide will also work overtime to get evidence or glimpses of evidence that political parties are behind the pro- or anti-government street events.
“Running to shoo the uncle away” is an event aimed at showing public dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. It will take place nationwide, but so will a counter event intended to support him. Political parties, of course, can’t say they are organising the events or financially supporting them, as legal restrictions prohibit them from using street movements to get political results that could be achieved in Parliament.
So, Thais are hearing that political parties support this or that running event. No politicians are going overboard in promoting the activities. For example, Pheu Thai’s Sudarat Keyuraphan said the “Running to shoo the uncle away” is a “beautiful” democratic activity but she would not go as far as saying “Join it if you love Pheu Thai.”
Friday, January 10, 2020: “See you again at the censure” was the opposition’s message for the embattled foreign minister during this week’s debate on his ministry’s budget. Don Pramudwinai was bombarded by opposition MPs for his US-Iran comment so much that House Speaker Chuan Leekpai had to intervene.
“This is not a no-confidence debate,” Chuan reminded opposition MPs as they lined up on Thursday to accuse Don of “bringing the war home”. Don had said Asean governments had received US notifications before the drone strike in Iraq that killed an Iranian top commander, and the opposition said the Thai taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be used to fund this kind of “incompetent” diplomacy. They asked Prime Minister Prayut Chan-0-cha to remove Don before it was too late.
The budget debate was so heated Chuan had to step in, reminding the opposition MPs that it was not an occasion for character attacks.
The opposition MPs barely listened to Chuan, and asked Don to be prepared for more, harsher attacks during the censure debate. A censure motion will certainly have Don’s name on it.
The Foreign Ministry’s proposed Bt4.97 billion budget, however, passed the second reading thanks to the government’s superior control of the House of Representatives.
Thursday, January 9, 2020: Amid “We will follow you” chants, Sudarat Keyuraphan has reportedly insisted that she was still a member of the biggest opposition party. But, obviously, all remains unwell between her and some high-ranking party figures.
She is quitting as the party’s chief strategist, a position many find redundant to that of her nemesis Chalerm Yoobamrung, who has allegedly teamed up with party leader Sompong Amornwiwat to dilute her influences in Pheu Thai.
Two days ago, Sudarat held a New Year party for Pheu Thai’s Bangkok MPs as well as those from the Northeast who helped the party campaign in the Khon Kaen by-election. About 50 Pheu Thai MPs showed up at her home.
During the party, she insisted that she remained a Pheu Thai member, but bitterly suggested that rumours about her quitting the party entirely had come from enemies within who stabbed her in the back.
Sudarat said although she had decided to quit as the chief strategist, she was willing to help the party with her remaining capacity. It was reported that “We will follow you” chants were heard constantly that evening.
Wednesday, January 8, 2020: What Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said regarding the US strike that killed a top military leader in Iran was bad. But maybe so was the assumption of his critics.
The “Don out!” uproar has followed Don’s statement that he had known about the US strike one day before it happened. Asked to comment on the global tension created by the US strike, Don said he hoped the situation would not deteriorate. But problems concerned other things that he said.
He was quoted as saying that “some coordination has been made” by Washington on the US move. Asean, he said, had known one day before hand what was going to happen. The minister added that Thailand was convinced what was about to happen would not snowball into something worse.
“It doesn’t matter if Minister Don was telling the truth or not,” said dormant red-shirted leader Chatuporn Prompan. “He just can’t say that kind of things, which can make Thailand an accomplice.”
According to news reports, government MPs disagreed with Don’s action, too. The minister has been called a “loose-tongued” man.
But the critics are assuming that the United States actually informed an “allied” government, one led by a former military junta leader whom Washington apparently abhorred, that it was planning a highly confidential military operation against a target that might include a top commander of a Muslim nation. And Don’s statement also referred to Asean, where a few governments are dominated by Muslims.
Tuesday, January 7, 2020: Several mainstream news agencies have reported that Sudarat Keyuraphan’s problems within the Pheu Thai Party may have reached a breaking point. Some reports have gone as far as the politician having packed up and prepared to leave.
Reporters were scrambling to get actual words from her mouth. She will be asked questions about the rumours very soon.
The rumours followed recent trips to Dubai by Sudarat and her opponents in the party. Their growing conflicts were said to require the highest level of refereeing, or Thaksin Shinawatra to be exact.
Party insiders point at Sudarat’s prolonged conflicts with Chalerm Yoobamrung which have led to redundant party positions on election strategy. There is also a serious disagreement between Sudarat and some high-ranking party members when it comes to whether Pheu Thai should field a replacement Bangkok gubernatorial election candidate now that Chadchart Sittipunt is almost certain to run as an independent.
Monday, January 6, 2020: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said his government was closely monitoring the growing problems between Washington and Tehran, and admitted that the on-going tension could threaten stability of energy prices.
“A lot of things can affect us, although we live far away from the conflict zone,” Prayut said. “One of the things worrying us is that energy prices can go up globally and affect the local ones.”
Stepped-up security has been arranged for important venues like embassies, he said. On evacuation of Thais overseas, he said measures had already existed and could be enforced if necessary.
“The Thai Foreign Ministry has been told that if they have to act, they don’t need to wait for orders (until the last minute),” he said.
“Of course, countries are worried. Many things can affect us, especially when trade, the economy and confidence are concerned.”
Sunday, January 5, 2020: With controversies surrounding Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, Piyabutr Sangkanokkul and Pannika Wanich, Chaithawat Tulathon has managed to fly under the radar. With uncertainties rocking the Future Forward Party, which might even need to be rebranded and could face restrictions on the trio’s political activities, not any more.
Chaithawat has been tipped as a possible candidate to lead the embattled party, whatever new name it might have to take. He is currently deputy party secretary-general but his revolutionary political ideology is said to be stronger than most in Future Forward.
He and Thanathorn worked together during their student activism days. Student activists during the period, it has been noted, came to embrace the capitalism ideology and became affluent. Their wealth has been used partly normally and partly to advocate an old political principle of “everyone is equal”, which many may find ironic.
But in an interview published very recently, Chaithawat insisted that Future Forward is not relying on political marketing. “You can’t succeed through marketing in politics,” he said. “You have to really believe your belief in order to succeed.”
Saturday, January 4, 2020: The Democrat Party must have loved to hear a stronger denial, but Korn Chatikavanij’s Facebook post stating he is with it at the moment is as good as it’s going to get.
Rumours about Korn defecting to lead a new group or a party have been hounding the Democrats for months. In the Facebook post, he said the following (direct translation from his Thai-language post):
- I’m still a member of the Democrat Party and preparing to do my job on the Budget Bill. Please stay tuned for the debate.
- It’s true that some people have come to talk to me about setting up a group or a party. They all want to see our country move forward. But (if there’s any doubt) please read the number 1 again.
- Palang Pracharat has never approached me to ask me to do anything.
- I have never approached anyone in the Future Forward Party.
- The Democrat Party has never asked me to contest the Bangkok gubernatorial election. They only wanted me to be a vice chairman of a committee to screen candidates. I have declined that request.
His post ended with a curious statement. “If I’m to make any (key) decision in the future, I will come forward straightforwardly on this space,” he said.
Friday, January 3, 2020: The Prayut government is entering 2020 with everything “under control”, according to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, considered one of the key coalition managers.
In an extensive interview published by Thai Rath, Prawit said the “Three Ps” _ himself, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Interior Minister Anupong “Pok” Paochinda have known one another since childhood and rumours about a split were simply not true.
“We go back 30-50 years,” Prawit said.
Analysts say military-related stability of the government depends much on the three men’s relations.
On the Thai economy, which could turn political sentiment strongly against the ruling coalition, Prawit said the global prospect was not nice but there are things that can be blamed on the government and things that are beyond the government’s control. Internal factors are “fine”, he said.
On the running event dubbed “Run to shoo the uncle away”, which is supposed to expose the scale of how much the Thai public are unhappy with the Prayut government, Prawit said: “There is nothing to worry about.”
On whether the government’s economic leaders were working as a team or whether there have been serious conflicts among them, leading to bad economic management, Prawit said: “There are no conflicts whatsoever.”
On much-speculated relationship among coalition partners, particularly when the Palang Pracharat, Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties are concerned, Prawit said: “Take my words for it. There is no problem at all.”
Thursday, January 2, 2020: Saying Buddhist prayers “across the years” has been trendy over the past half decade, so Super Poll has conducted a survey on what are the most popular wishes during the process.
Coming first among some 3,000 people surveyed is a good economy (79.5 %), followed by national peace (74.6 %), safety from crimes (66.5 %) and harmony and unity among Thais (64.3 %).
Instead of partying, an increasing number of Thais are now preferring to meditate or say Buddhist prayers in the evening of the New Year’s eve over into the New Year. Many temples have been hosting such activities, attracting a growing number of religious faithful.
Critics of Super Poll have always accused it of being politically biased. Among the pollsters’ latest findings include Thais’ “disagreement” with the proposed cancellation of mandatory conscription, the “big success” of the government’s “Chim Shop Chai” campaign and public questioning of charter reform motives.
Wednesday, January 1, 2020: He keeps Thais guessing about his political ideology. And he has addressed two explosive issues _ military roles in politics and constitutional reform.
Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has suggested that it is too soon to change the Constitution, and that the military has an important role to play but it needs a better public relations strategy.
In a Facebook post of a well-known reporter covering military affairs, Chavalit, former Army chief who turned into a political party leader and once served as prime minister, did not seem to agree with the controversial idea of scrapping the mandatory military conscription system entirely.
“We still need it,” he was quoted as saying. He suggested that the military has done too little to defend its grounds on this subject.
On the current Army chief, Gen Apirat Kongsompong, Chavalit said he must be composed and not let roller-coaster politics dictate his action. “Don’t listen too much to politicians because they are singing the same old tunes,” Chavalit said.
On charter amendment, Chavalit said the current Constitution has come into effect for just a couple of years but critics have already started bombarding it.
“The right way to do it is see whether measures (laid down by the Constitution) work or not and then discussions can begin on how they can be improved,” he was quoted as saying. “But some people already are demanding changes.”
On Thailand’s situation as a whole, Chavalit said: “I’m still very worried.”
Chavalit’s political leaning has been a subject for prolonged scrutiny. He has always been deemed supporter of Thaksin Shinawatra and is not popular among those on Thaksin’s opposite side.