11 July 2024

December 31, 2022: Some reports say Pele would get into scuffles with friends while playing football as a child if someone called him Pele. That’s a legend of the late legend.

Edson Arantes do Nasciment didn’t like the nickname, according to reports. How he got it was not quite clear. Certain stories said that his father was a professional soccer player for a tiny club whose goalkeeper was José Lino da Conceição Faustino, who was nicknamed “Bilé.”

Many people might not know this, but, as a child, Edson’s favorite position was goalkeeper, and when he made diving or flying saves he would shout “segura, Bilé,” as a battle cry in honour of his dad’s teammate. Other kids would poke fun at that and Bilé eventually morphed into Pelé, CBS sports said.

Another childhood tale had it that the nickname came from Portuguese word “Pe” which was uttered when one kicked the ball. That somehow became Pele when the late Brazilian icon was concerned.

Another tale yet had Pele mispronounce a name in front of other children. When “Pele” came out he was teased over and over and the name stuck.

He liked his real name, which among family circles was an honour to a famous American inventor. But he couldn’t shake off Pele which came to associate with, in his own words, “the man I am today.”

His greatness always created extraordinary sporting stories. On November 19, 1969, Pele scored his 1,000th career goal, sending hundreds to invade the pitch to mob him. That disrupted the game for half and hour. At Santos, Brazil, November 19 is known as ‘Pele Day’ to mark that historic goal.

Two years before that goal, a 48-hour ceasefire reportedly took place in Nigeria so that government and rebel troops could watch him play on a visit to the war-torn nation.

When he was in England as an old man in the 2010s, he visited Anfield which was hosting a Liverpool-Manchester United showdown and there were pictures of him purportedly acting like a Liverpool fan. Yet when someone asked him which English Premiership club he would like to play for, he replied: “Arsenal is a good team to play with. I would play for Arsenal if I had a chance.”

Last but not least, great at playing football as he was, Pele was notorious for giving wrong predictions regarding results of key matches.

RIP, the humble, smiling legend.

December 30, 2022: The findings of the international media network’s survey on how the public rate football’s greatest tournament over the past 100 years may have been announced with gritted teeth.

The newly-ended Qatar World Cup won by a landslide. The first runner-up trails so far behind that if you looked at the numbers alone, you might assume that the Japan-South Korean World Cup was at the bottom of the table.

Here are the results: Qatar won 78% of the votes, followed by the Japan-South Korean 2002 World Cup (6%), the Brazil 2014 World Cup (5%), the Russia 2018 World Cup (4%), the Germany 2006 World Cup (4%) and the South Africa 2010 World Cup (3%).

Some must have been overjoyed. “The results come despite the BBC choosing to shun the opening ceremony of the World Cup, instead launching a tirade of attacks against Qatar’s human rights record, in a move that saw the BBC receive major backlash from football fans in the UK,” Gulf Times website reported.

Critics of Qatar said footballing reasons must have prevailed in the poll. People judged what was good and what was bad on the quality of the game, not the image of the host, they said. Adding to that is the Messi drama in the last World Cup, it was pointed out.

Others insisted that safety, orderliness, nice family atmosphere, exotic cultures, convenient transport and high-quality broadcast along with “improving” and technologically-aided refereeing must also greatly influence voters’ decisions.

December 29, 2022: Prayut Chan-o-cha will represent Ruam Thai Sang Chart at the next election; Prawit Wongsuwan will be lonely at the top of Palang Pracharath; and Anupong Paochinda, or Big Pok, may soon leave the political scene because “I’m getting old.”

It’s looking increasingly obvious that the most famous and influential Ps in Thai politics, whose alliance has dictated the national course over the past few years, are going their own, separate ways.

That Prayut and Prawit are drifting apart has been known for quite some time. Anupong, meanwhile, left little doubt in today’s interview that he would join neither of them.

“I keep assessing myself to see if I’m suitable for what’s to come,” he said. “I’m getting old, and there are a lot of younger and capable people.”

Asked if there would be a rethink of that assessment, he replied: “I’m done thinking. There are others who are suitable.”

It appears to be a gracious bowing out, which may irk the other two, because any compliment he might get will be at their expense.

December 28, 2022: No official statement will say anything about prime ministerial candidacy, but reports are in unison about it being the main cause of why the honeymoon between the main coalition party and Mingkwan Saengsuwan is very brief.

To cut it short, he was presenting himself earlier this month as the party’s great hope, its candidate for the post-election premiership, and that dissatisfied many MPs of the ruling party who were asking “What about our man Prawit (Wongsuwan)?” The disgruntled MPs were also said to be demanding the party’s board stand on the issue, insisting that nobody could make a decision that was supposed to be made by the committee.

Official words on the Mingkwan affair are expected any minute, but the man who is changing parties more often than ordinary men change shoes is reported to have burned all the bridges with his new hosts.

December 27, 2022: Move Forward will not benefit from the adjusted electoral system, and it can even get smaller once next year’s votes are completely tallied, according someone the party must listen to.

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul was addressing a prospect that practically everyone associated with Move Forward fears _ the disadvantage the party will face under the changed party list calculation formula _ and his opinion just adds to the pessimism. Yet he was the most senior politician linked to Move Forward to have spoken out about the dreaded possibility.

In a Facebook post, the Progressive Movement man said whereas votes losing candidates got in 2019 contributed to Move Forward’s high number of overall House seats, such votes would be “wasted” this time. Support for Move Forward, he pointed out, spreads throughout Thailand rather solidly but probably is not enough for its candidates to win at constituencies where competitions are tight.

“Now that the electoral system has changed, there can be (a lot of) constituencies where Move Forward candidates win a lot of votes but still can’t emerge the top winners. The votes they get will eventually mean nothing this time,” he said. He was indirectly referring to the merit of the one-ballot system in which votes for losing constituency candidates were used to calculate allocation of party-list seats.

Piyabutr also feared that anti-Prayut feelings could morph into support for Pheu Thai at the expense of Move Forward because the former had a better chance of winning the election and form the next government.

The only way Move Forward can turn it around is to do very well in the party list voting, considerably bettering the nearly 6.3 million votes it received in 2019 (one-ballot system at that time), Piyabutr said. Otherwise, even if the party manages to equal its 2019 achievement, it could get smaller, he concluded.

Doing well in the party list vote must be accompanied by great constituency success, he said.

What Piyabutr left unsaid is that the way-out could be at Pheu Thai’s expense, because both parties virtually share the same political market. His pro-Move Forward scenario (the party doing well in both party list and constituency voting) will pit it directly against Pheu Thai which is gunning for a landslide.

December 26, 2022: There will be blood in the Thai capital in the general election, with Sarng Anakot Thai the latest to declare intention to fight for seats in the city.

Now we have Pheu Thai, which did extremely well in the City Assembly election; Move Forward, which has solid support in Bangkok; Democrat, a previous dominant force seeking to crawl its way back; Palang Pracharath, who must still have considerable backing despite recent setbacks; Ruam Thai Sang Chart, which hopes to sell Prayut Chan-o-cha to notoriously fickle Bangkokians; and, of course, Sarng Anakot Thai.

“We are confident of getting some seats in the capital,” said Uttama Savanayana, the Sarng Anakot Thai leader who was forced out of the Prayut coalition government due to intense and cutthroat politics in the alliance.

Ideological fight, direct rivalry and frenemy conflicts could make the Bangkok race one of the bloodiest in history.

And don’t rule out Sudarat Keyuraphan and Korn Chatikavanij, both of whom can strongly appeal to voters tired of absolute divisiveness overshadowing

December 25, 2022: From presenting itself as a small, newly-born political party for which winning 25 House seats would be a dream come true, United Thai Nation is now thinking big.

After Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced he would join the party, which would make him its candidate for the top executive post, the rating of United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) has been reportedly rising. According to its secretary-general, Ekkanat Promphan, now the general election output “could realistically touch 100”.

In an interview, he was evasive on which party United Thai Nation could or could not work with, although it’s obvious the ideological divide would limit its options. In a Facebook post, he admitted that “we are trailing the leader considerably”, but stressed that “we are just months old.”

He did not say it directly, but it seemed the rating of his party had jumped more than that of the prime minister, which, according to him, also rose.

Ekkanat claimed news about Prayut joining the party was drawing defectors from other parties toward his camp. “Reports saying 40 MPs are coming to us are not too far from reality, but there could be more,” he said.

Asked about the party’s previous 25-seat ambition, he said: “We will definitely surpass that.”

December 24, 2022: Is the much-criticised “Zero-COVID” Chinese policy good or bad? With the number of cases reportedly exploding unimaginably, the international narrative is changing considerably.

“The explosion in cases followed Beijing’s decision this month to abandon its zero-Covid policy, which kept the virus at bay through mass testing, mandatory quarantine and draconian lockdowns,” Financial Times said. BBC is highlighting growing pressure on China’s healthcare capability.

Very recently, international coverage of mass protests seemed to side with protesters, saying they were showing justifiable resentment at severe restrictions, and decrying the measures as nonsensical and extremely dictatorial.

With the unreal skyrocketing of the number of cases, the harsh measures have become more understandable now. The coronavirus’ penetration power is still reportedly unstoppable, and the only good news is that whereas various estimates show 18 per cent of the population may have been infected, the scare is nowhere near the levels of one or two years ago.

But the rate of spread is still rising. CNN, a main anti-Beijing voice from America, was not overly playing up the Chinese misery for good reasons. The United States was topping the COVID-19 chart for long periods, and the outlet was recently leading the western criticism of the zero-COVID policy.

That does not mean the anti-Beijing tone will change much, though. Now the CNN narrative appears to be focusing on cover-up or flawed counting.

December 23, 2022: Is Prayut out easier to analyse than Prayut in? Yes, definitely. And more so now that the drifting apart from Palang Pracharath has been unmistakably confirmed.

Many questions are up in the air at the moment. What will happen to Palang Pracharath and its leader Prawit Wongsuwan? How will intra-government realignment with all the daily defections and recruitment affect the already-fragile alliance? There are key constitution amendment issues left to tackle, so how will Prayut Chan-o-cha remaining in the picture influence the treacherous course? If the alliance loses out in the general election, how can a former coup-maker function on the opposition bench, possibly as the opposition leader?

And etc.

Pheu Thai would have wanted him to stay away, in which case the chance for a landslide would rise sharply and the only thing to worry about would be Move Forward. The second-biggest opposition party, Move Forward, may be half-hearted. Prayut’s total departure would take one major rallying cry with him, changing the complexion of the game significantly. Him staying put will keep things simmer, which might be good for Move Forward. Just might.

Bangkok’s populace will have a soul-searching and an important role to play. Some say recent election setbacks of the government side took place because of Prayut’s declining popularity, but others say they happened because Palang Pracharath did not treat him well. Nobody knows for sure, but things will be much clearer in the next general election.

December 22, 2022: Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington this week, his first trip away from Ukraine since the war broke, showed that neither the United States nor the Ukrainian president are “ready for peace,” Russia’s ambassador to the US was quoted as saying.

He practically told the US Congress the country needed more help in the war against Russia, although he emphasized that such help would be for world peace’s sake, not his country alone. He vowed to continue to dig in, according to CNN and BBC. It was a much-lauded speech from a man who has been wearing military uniforms more often than executive suit since the beginning of the year. The speech pleased virtually everyone but Russian officials.

Russia calls it a politically-motivated show and slammed both Washington and Zelensky. The Biden administration’s “conciliatory statements about the lack of intention to start a confrontation with Russia are just empty words,” Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said in a statement distributed by the Russian Embassy that decried what he described as Zelensky’s “Hollywood-style trip.”

December 21, 2022: An opinion piece in CNN spelled out potential problems that the Department of Justice’s possible action against former US president Donald Trump would entail, but one big issue is omitted.

It was mentioned that there are such risks as a possible DOJ clampdown being seen as politically motivated and hence unjust, or the national divide deepening. The real problem that the CNN article did not address, however, was what went wrong with American democracy.

The US democracy created Trump as well as the whole environment and circumstances leading to the infamy materializing before the whole world two years ago. According to Trump and his supporters, the infamy was election fraud. To the other side, the infamy was the unprecedented refusal to accept results of a free and fair election and the use of violence to try to change them. Either way, something was seriously wrong with the system.

The biggest risk is that. Indicting Trump is indicting someone who came to power through American democracy. Indicting Trump is admitting that the very system was _ and most probably still is _ malfunctioning.

Even the process of asking the DOJ to take action is questionable. After months of highly-partisan “investigation” by politicians and monitored by highly-partisan media, the House January 6 committee has virtually ruled that Trump aided an insurrection and should be charged with multiple felonies. The DOJ will have to take a look at the House committee’s findings and decide what to do.

 

The CNN opinion piece suggests that despite the risk of breaking the already-fragile national harmony, the need to protect the system is greater. Here’s the paradox: If Trump was wrong, the system that installed him and made him a president for four full years must be wrong somewhere. If he was right, the system that is cracking down on him must even be more wrong.

For the rest of the world, what’s transpiring in America must have made many wonder. Among the questions: If Trump was a monster, does it mean the US foreign policies during his reign were monstrous? If so, why should foreigners pay the price for the “mistake” and what can guarantee that the system “in need of protection” will not elect someone like him again?

December 20, 2022: One belated debate has been drowned out amid Lionel Messi’s dramatic and magical night, and it concerned Ukraine.

The presidential office of the war-torn country is criticising FIFA after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s message for peace was not displayed in Qatar’s Lusail Stadium ahead of the memorable final.

In it, he stressed that humanity should have only “World Cup, not world war”, according to CNN, which said the presidential office would now distribute the Zelensky video independently to publicise its content. FIFA, when approached by CNN, did not comment.

It seems FIFA, not Qatar, bore the brunt of the CNN story.  The Ukrainian presidential office told CNN they were informed that FIFA regarded the message as too political. The football governing body, according to CNN, has gone to extreme lengths to keep political messages out of the World Cup. Controversies have plagued this World Cup since Qatar was selected to host the tournament, with corruption and human rights allegations further complicated by political, social and cultural issues like LGBTQ.

December 19, 2022: Despite the natural long faces and ear-to-ear smiles, the Qatar World Cup final on Sunday navigated amazing, beautiful and cruel twists and turns to end in the only way possible that can be called perfect.

It was neither a coronation nor a farewell just yet. But the succession was materializing all the same. Lionel Messi will keep playing at the highest level after the World Cup trophy completes the most glorious football jigsaw a human being can ever put together. Kylian Mbappe, playing his second World Cup final before turning 24, scored a hat-trick and won the tournament’s Golden Boot, unmistakably cementing his status as the former’s heir. The game ended a 3-3 draw, in which Messi scored two and Mbappe three, after 120 minutes, and was decided by a penalty shootout which is practically a toss of the coin.

There was no doubt in the mind of anyone watching what was called one of the most thrilling World Cup finals ever that the younger man, who scored in the previous World Cup final in Russia as well, would be the next king under the unfolding fairy-tale succession. The only thing matching his great ability and ice-cool mentality under enormous pressure on the pitch was the beauty of Messi’s game and die-hard determination.

December 18, 2022: Among various questions and answers in the latest survey by Dusit pollsters, only one finding stands out.

When asked to compare today’s Thai politicians with those five years ago, a staggering 91% either do not see any difference (47%) or are seeing something worse (44.6%). Only 8.30% think today’s politicians are of better quality.

The survey was conducted earlier this month, covering 1,157 Thais in all regions.

One may argue that the 47% who do not see any difference should not be automatically combined with the 44.6% naysayers. There’s a chance the politicians of five years ago could be perceived as perfect and you can’t improve on perfection, hence the “no different” answer. That chance, though, is extremely slim, if not zero.

Other questions and answers concern such basic issues as corruption, mudslinging and keeping of promises, so the percentages are very predictable.

December 17, 2022: The term “digital oligarchy” became famous last year when Twitter banned Donald Trump amid the political turmoil related to the Capitol Hill storming and presidential election. Interestingly, some high-ranking officials of Europe were using those words while expressing their desire to see some kind of counterbalance as they thought the powers-that-be in America were wielding too much political influences over social media platforms.

Be careful what you wish for. Today, Europe is seeing the lifting of Trump’s ban and Twitter flexing its muscles in the other direction.

On Friday, EU commissioner Vera Jourova was reported by BBC as threatening Twitter with sanctions under Europe’s new Digital Services Act which she said requires “the respect of media freedom and fundament rights”. “Elon Musk should be aware of that. There are red lines. And sanctions, soon,” she added.

This followed the ban of journalists working for organisations that Trump wouldn’t care less about. It also flew in the face of high-level European comments when Twitter cracked down on him last year.

At that time, Europe saw him as a freedom of expression victim and called for effective watchdog activities outside America, with French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire even telling state-run France Inter radio: “The regulation of digital giants cannot be done by the digital oligarchy itself.” The German government said it was disturbed by his ban and even Russian politicians were saying that if it was not authoritarian censorship, they did not know what it is.

December 16, 2022: Donald Trump used to be banned. Now, it’s his rivals’ turn. To be more specific, news organisations not so friendly toward him have had their reporters targetted by Twitter.

It could be a mere coincidence that the aforementioned happened, to add to the lifting of Trump’s suspension, but since Elon Musk took over the platform what has been going on over there has fueled political conspiracy theories. After all, Twitter is undeniably a major political tool. It’s also a very weird thing. When it suits you, it’s democratic and great, but when it works against you, it’s anarchy disguised as democracy spreading misinformation.

December 15, 2022: After Morocco bravely failed at the hurdle before last just hours ago, the World Cup narrative will return to the “Old King, New King” when the greatest sporting event concludes in a few days’ time.

In many ways, it will be a great climax. Kylian Mbappe has been knocking on Lionel Messi’s door over the last two years and the France-against-Argentina final may put to rest the question of whether the new era will keep dawning or is unmistakably and unequivocally there.

There is no question who is currently the most sought-after, most expensive and best-paid in the world. Mbappe is taking home around one and a half million dollars weekly with Messi in the second place. Now at age 23, the Frenchman is a full-on global superstar who’s a considerable asset for Nike and Oakley and a budding entertainment mogul.  He plays and has a powerful presence for Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain, where he is said to have influenced the club’s decision-making regarding human resource management. He plays with, of course, Messi at PSG.

As for Messi, 35, the question whether he or Cristiano Ronaldo is currently the greatest football player in the world has been somehow dimmed by the latter’s problems on and off the pitch. The Mbappe comparison is more glaring now, thanks to both men’s World Cup performances that are vital to their teams and what is to come this Sunday.

A lot of people are wanting this one to be Messi’s World Cup to complete his already-unrivalled achievements, reasoning that Mbappe has a lot more years to go playing football.

The old wave is hanging on for dear life, but one thing we know about the new wave is that it has no sympathy.

December 14, 2022: Reiterating its alliance with the biggest opposition party, Move Forward has defended the former’s controversial idea to raise the daily minimum wage to Bt600, and vowed to push for inflation-triggered automatic increase.

In an interview, Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat said everything (well, almost everything) Pheu Thai wanted to hear regarding current and future ties, stressing that any difference in the future can be sorted out amicably. But judging from his comments, there wouldn’t be a problem concerning the most contentious issue so far _  Pheu Thai’s minimum wage promise, which critics say could scare both local and foreign entrepreneurs stiff.

“With or without minimum wage rise, the inflation is there anyway,” Pita said. “Minimum wage is not the only factor causing inflation.”

He suggested that as long as there are measures to help small, start-up businesses, everything should be fine with Bt600 a day for unskilled workers. “We agreed to be allies because our policies could go along, and both of us wanted to help Thai labour,” Pita said. “(However,) we believe that minimum wage increase should be automatic, depending on inflation and/or GDP figures, not elections.”

If there is something Pheu Thai may not like in his remarks, it must be the last sentence.

December 13, 2022: Sweep aside all the preceding corruption scandals and Qatar can justifiably hope that if their Arab culture holds sway at the end of the World Cup, the tournament which has been unprecedented in many ways can be a success.

No hooliganism, no fights, no thuggery and no other untoward incidents so far, with a few more days to go before the curtain comes down. Why? Many people think it’s largely because of the prevalent alcohol ban and harsh anti-drug measures. “You see the benefits now?” tweeted a westerner. “Women, children and opposing supporters can have fun without the worry of violence. Just a great vibe. Superb work.”

Arab values and western norms have had to jointly walk a tightrope during the greatest sporting extravaganza, with the Qataris and their western visitors equally apprehensive. The dresses. The expressions of love and sexual desire. Beer. The issue of LGBTQ. And etc. All are potentially explosive.

Until the last foreign fans take their flights home, nobody can rest assured. Great dramas have happened on the pitch, but Qatar cannot claim credit if they happen elsewhere. Much will depend on the foreigners, who have been respectful so far.

Qatar needs respect to go beyond World Cup, though.

“A lot of fans are coming with a very white-washed mentality that anything that they do is simply the right thing and anything that goes against that is backwards,” said a local journalist quoted by LA Times. “Culture is culture, and it should be respected anywhere you go.”

December 12, 2022: Having seen what it describes as a phenomenal rise in the popularity of electric cars, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand has promised a sharpened, more dedicated focus on the unmistakable trend.

Charging stations will cover the whole Thailand situating 100 kilometres apart at most in all provinces within next year, the state enterprise pledges. This largely has to do with the fact that the registration of EVs in Thailand jumped 156% this year already from the year before.

Electric cars and related technologies are the star of Motor Expo 2022:

“Business competition among carmakers is becoming increasingly fierce, which means our biggest issue is to help ensure that the number of charging stations will match the demand and that there will be a good ecosystem,” said Warit Rattanachuen, a senior EGAT engineer and researcher.

According to him, EGAT’s ultimate goals are helping make sure that one can drive from northernmost of Thailand to the country’s southernmost uninterrupted using EVs, and that charging stations must be available for all “in-town” users to make two or three hours of commuting by EVs a common thing.

December 11, 2022: Will normal service be resumed? Or will a new giant be confirmed? Or will there be a fairy-tale ending?

The World Cup’s semi-finalists are setting the stage for just three possibilities. If France or Argentina grab the prestigious trophy, nothing much will have changed in the next four years in world football. If Croatia win it, a name that has been mentioned tantalizingly or on and off along with the greats in the most popular sport will formally join the elite club.

But if Morocco do the unthinkable …

December 10, 2022: What would be the birthday wish of Thailand’s charter if it could talk after all the candles have been blown out?

Here’s one possibility: “Stop tearing me up or quarrelling over me. Start making me what I’m supposed to be _ a set of harmoniously-shared values that is truly worthy, well-cherished and well-respected and serves all Thais equally and genuinely, not just any group of people.”

December 9, 2022: Conventional auto sellers and producers and oil businesses may not be immediately squirming, but they must have justifiably feared what the near future holds, with a big clue being the staggering Tesla reservations in Thailand this week.

That the prices of gasoline-eating automobiles will crash must be the least of everyone’s concern. All the signs are that electric vehicles (EV) will sooner rather than later stop being an exception and become the norm, meaning the world’s economy and diplomatic landscape can be upended.

Of course, this planet still needs oil to produce electricity, but if electric vehicles replace their gasoline-driven counterparts, humans can most likely kiss the globe’s political and economic maps goodbye.

Tesla-Model 3 and Tesla-Model Y are being booked by Thais like crazy. Hype must have played a part, but the obvious trend is here to stay. The tipping point has not come yet, but it will certainly arrive with a bang.

Reports said big-name auto makers have launched or are planning to launch major EV releases. Others are known to have in their innovation stocks smaller EV types for short trips. Charging stations are being increasingly seen. Gasoline cars are like smoking’s swansong. They will surely die.

Main deterrence is being dealt with. The prices of electric vehicles will stay out of reach of many for a while, but we know what happened with mobile phones, don’t we? The battery life will last longer, again, like those of cellular phones. The cars will run faster and accelerate more efficiently, just like the computing powers of our phones.

More use of electric vehicles and solar energy will reduce economic dependence on oil. The environment will benefit, but so will poorer nations, like Lao People’s Democratic Republic which has boasted great electricity generating capacity.

A scenario not too far-fetched has less dependence on oil enhance the likelihood of “true democracy”. In today’s world, international politics and ideological diplomacy are dictated very much by who has the oil, or who has access to it, or who can invade other nations to get it. When energy sources are easier to find, that will change. Probably slowly but quite surely.

Can electric vehicles do what smartphones did? At first, only rich people could afford them, but cheaper yet equally effective products soon flooded the markets. Today, villagers armed with those phones are competing with television stations by broadcasting their own content. That’s true democracy, thanks in no small part to much-vilified cheap copycats.

December 8, 2022: When Vladimir Putin talks about nuclear, everyone listens. And his latest remark on the subject will fill the rest of the world with anything but confidence.

He said the possibility of a nuclear war was increasing. Everyone knows that, but coming from someone who’s got the launch code is a bit different still.

In a meeting at the Kremlin with Russia’s Human Rights Council, he said “In terms of the threat of nuclear war, you are right, such threat is increasing.”

Arguably, that’s not the scariest part. He went on to discuss the important matter of who will fire missiles first. This is what he said, according to CNN: “As for the idea that Russia wouldn’t use such weapons first under any circumstances, then it means we wouldn’t be able to be the second to use them either — because the possibility to do so in case of an attack on our territory would be very limited.”

December 7, 2022: Thaksin Shinawatra’s defense of the Pheu Thai Party’s jaw-dropping minimum wage promise is equally jaw-dropping.

“Don’t forget that I became rich because I grabbed air and turned it into money,” he said during an online “Live”.

It was a statement that divided opinions. Admirers must have used that to further reflect on his money-making genius, but critics will cite high telecom monthly fees and the constitutional stipulation about “natural resources” that must equally belong to _ and equally benefit _ all Thais.

He was defending the Pheu Thai Party’s 600 baht-a-day minimum wage vow aimed at drawing support from labourers, a very large voting base.

“Prime Minister Prayut (Chan-o-cha) has spent all his life with (conventional) budgets (so he couldn’t see it),” Thaksin said, before going on to remind those questioning the pledge how he himself got rich in what looked like an unconventional way.

December 6, 2022: Resistance is stronger, but so is the force it is fighting. That’s the verdict of the country’s independent anti-graft movement on how the war against the major scourge is going.

According to Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, less “under the table” money is being paid by leaders of average Thai families and the value of honesty is more widespread than before thanks to better education and the “correct” principles of the younger generation of bureaucrats.

But the improvement is apparently limited to everyday things of ordinary citizens. When it comes to mega projects, conflicts of interests at the highest political level, or big businesses’ tendency to sweep scandals under the rugs, Thailand still has a mountain to climb, Mana said in his formal report.

In other words, the average Joe is having improved conscience, but big businessmen and politicians still have some way to go.

Thailand has seen a lot more anti-graft principles in school materials and the younger generation is more outspoken when untoward practices are spotted, he said.

But obscene amounts of money that corruption produces are still coming into and leaving Thailand annually unabated, indicating high-level corruption has not subsided, he said. In addition, pieces of anti-graft legislation designed against the big fish have either been slowed down or weakened or implemented ineffectively.

Such laws and measures include those dealing with conflicts of interests, bureaucrats’ gift-receiving guidelines, asset reports of office holders and punishment of violators, he said

Mana had also expressed cautious optimism two years ago, when he said public figures were facing tougher, more thorough scrutiny while the overall justice process seemed to have improved. At the time, he said the number of complaints or tip-offs had doubled, indicating that public awareness was better than before.

December 5, 2022: Don’t get too busy sending political messages on football’s biggest stage, one of the world’s most popular names in the sport has apparently told a football superpower.

Arsene Wenger didn’t name Germany out loud, but everyone knew whom he was referring to when taking a swipe at those who took a stance on political issues at the World Cup and coincidentally underperformed on the pitch.

“You know when you go to a World Cup, you know you can’t lose the first game. The teams who have the experience to perform in tournaments like France and England played well in the first game,” the Frenchman said.

Well, we all know who lost their first game and thus had to go home early.

Wenger said teams like France and England “were mentally ready, with a mindset to focus on competition, and not the political demonstrations.”

Qatar is not a popular host, and criticism kept coming from left and right, particularly in the early days. Germany stole the limelight on the pitch, though, with German players putting their hands over their mouths in a symbolic, pre-match gesture after FIFA threatened to sanction those who wore the OneLove rainbow armband which a number the captains of seven countries including England were planning to do.

The four-times champions went on to suffer a shock 2-1 defeat at the hands of Japan and failed to qualify for the knockout stages.

Not everyone agreed with the former Arsenal manager, who is a FIFA’s head of global football development. His comments triggered outrage on social media, but the crucial fact remains unchanged: Germany were knocked out of a relatively “easy”group.

December 4, 2022: A statement by a top European Union official seems to suggest that Europe wants America to share more economic pains of the Russia-Ukraine war.

While security ties between Brussels and Washington were never stronger thanks to the military crisis in Ukraine, the same can’t be said about economic relations, in which doubts have grown about alleged American advantage. That’s the interpretation of European Council President Charles Michel’s latest media remarks.

“There’s unprecedented coordination on the war in Ukraine,” he said in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Saturday. Yet “the impact of the conflict on the US is not the same as on Europe.”

He elaborated that things are easier for America because it is an exporter of energy resources and benefits from spiking gas and oil prices, while the EU has to pay a heavy price.” “We’re at risk of an economic recession,” the bloc’s chief added.

European industries pay more for energy and face competition from American ones,” Michel explained. Asked if he was feeling “betrayed”, he said he would not use such a word. Resentment was clear in his comments, though.

At the heart of the bitter-sweet relationship trouble is America’s $430 billion Inflation Reduction Act with its generous tax breaks which some fear may lure away EU businesses and disadvantage European companies from car manufacturers to makers of green technology.

Reuters said the United States and the European Union will seek to tackle EU concerns about the new US green energy subsidy package in a constructive way.

December 3, 2022: Two main political parties, Palang Pracharath and Pheu Thai, may be washing their dirty linen in public regarding the mushrooming of questionable business operations related to people of Chinese origins in Thailand.

Analysts call it a “Tuhao effect”, predicting that the dig into “grey businesses” of people like Chaiyanat Kornchayanant, a well-known Chinese businessman with controversial business as well as political activities or connections, will not be good for both sides in Thailand’s ideological divide.

The man’s ties can be traced to both Palang Pracharath and Pheu Thai and they can generate sizeable political damage. Both parties have been accusing each other of having financial connections with him and each is doing its best to use him to discredit the other.

Raids have been conducted. Bombshell allegations have been made. However, it’s not just about which party people like him gave their money to or which real estate companies they are linked with. It’s also about how they got their business rights or contracts, who awarded them, who helped them get them and under whose government those things happened. How they used business nominees to buy properties and how that was possible will come into play as well.

It’s a long, long way to go and we will most likely see many bodies along the road.

December 2, 2022: A former lawyer of Chaiphol Wipa, the key suspect in the 2020 disappearance and death of a three-year-old child in Mukdahan, has sought investigation into alleged money-laundering activities of his ex-client.

The bombshell development involves Somkiat Rojajaworakamol, who represented Chaiphol when the latter stood accused of encroaching on a piece of forest land where a giant naga statue was built. Chaiphol lost that case, which was a dramatic offshoot of Nong Chompoo’s death and disappearance, and had to remove the statue from Mukdahan to resemble it in Sakhon Nakhon where he now lives.

Now, Somkiat has today lodged a petition with the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) charging that massive donations that flooded Chaiphol two years ago when the majority of the public believed he was innocent could have been part of _ or misused in _ a money-laundering scam. The groundswell of donations followed unprecedented media and social-media portrayal of Chaiphol as a patsy, making him one of the most celebrated criminal suspect in Thai history.

Thanks to Somkiat and other opponents of Chaiphol, the defendant now is also being accused of cheating the public, embezzling some donations, and buying a plot of forest land that legally cannot be sold. (The forest case that Chaiphol lost and Somkiat was the lawyer involved just encroachment charges, not illegal transaction charges.) Tax evasion complaints are also looming.

Somkiat’s defenders insist that the lawyer’s action is neither ironic nor a serious breach of legal ethics. Although the lawyer once represented Chaiphol in the forest encroachment case, they say, alleged money laundering was not happening at that time.

Somkiat today managed to draw mainstream media’s attention back to Chaiphol. Major outlets have all but shunned his Nong Chompoo trial after “negative” coverages prompted the suspect to renounce them and retreat into his own little domain fortified by his own loyal YouTubers.

Chaiphol’s trouble doesn’t end with all these. The Attorney General’s Office has appealed against the ruling in the forest encroachment case (in which he lost and was given a suspended jail term of two years and three months). The office is against the “suspended” jail term and wants him to be immediately imprisoned to set an example. The Appeals Court is expected to rule on the office’s petition any time soon.

December 1, 2022: Beijing may have to prepare itself for a “Despite high case numbers” narrative after widespread protests against the “Zero COVID” policy forced it to ease some tough measures.

Critics of China have criticised the restrictions and somehow indicated that public resentment against them was justified. The lifting of some strong-arm measures, however, is threatening to create a totally-different line of criticism, with the government now standing to be accused of yielding to political pressure at the expense of public health.

Some media outlets abroad have started to emphasise that loosened control is being implemented in areas that have seen alarming rises. It was reported that dozens of districts in Shanghai and Guangzhou were released from severe lockdown measures starting today.

The relative leniency followed mass protests against the heavy-handed “Zero-COVID” policy. The unrest was triggered by a fire in a high-rise block in the western Xinjiang region that killed many people last month. The pro-protest narrative was that long-running restrictions in the city contributed to the deaths, although the authorities denied such a claim.

 

 

Daily updates of local and international events by Tulsathit Taptim