15 July 2024

February 29, 2024: It may be sacrilegious to put SOB and Hail Mary in the same sentence, but the whole thing is nothing orthodox.

For US President Joe Biden to call his greatest diplomatic rival, Russian President Vladimir Putin, a “Crazy SOB”, it broke all the rules in the first place, and Michigan primary results along with some latest opinion polls may make us understand why.

Although Biden has won a Democratic primary in Michigan this week, a hastily-organised campaign against his stand on Gaza managed to deliver a massive warning sign. Activists who urged voters to withdraw support for Biden and instead vote uncommitted, had hoped for a showing of 10,000 votes, but the campaign achieved 10 times that target.

It was a considerable blow that the Biden campaign absolutely had seen coming. And not just Gaza, mind you. Texas and the president’s age are also combining to put him against the ropes in an election year. Time for Hail Mary, perhaps?

Calling Putin “Crazy SOB” during a fundraiser in San Francisco took place shortly before Michigan, but it could be intended to tell voters that if they don’t like the Russian leader, here’s an American cowboy ready to stare him down, not a chatterbox like Donald Trump whose relationship with Moscow is curious to say the least.

Forget Israel, the Biden campaign might want to tell voters. It’s Russia you should be worried about.

There is a theory unrelated to Michigan, however. This one has everybody overreact to an 81-year-old man’s occasional carelessness. Biden seemingly curses a lot, and his age is coming more and more into play. In a hot mic slip two years ago, he called a Fox reporter the same thing. Well, without “Crazy” though.

Russia either does not take it seriously or views America’s vulgarity at the highest level with a sense of satisfaction. Only days before San Francisco, Putin had told an American interviewer he preferred Biden to Trump as the US president, and Moscow is now saying (rather profoundly) that the SOB jibe justified what the Russian leader wanted.

February 28, 2024: To be fully democratic, what top executives of companies are getting must go into a new formula for calculating pay for unskilled workers.

Admittedly, it will be a nightmare to include top entrepreneurial or industrial earnings in the calculations, and one big argument is that such a formula could affect up-and-coming businesses operating on a shoestring. But there must be a way to help start-up or poor owners. Additionally, democracy is never easy, so while a genuinely-fair minimum wage can be very tough, it’s a must.

“Labour productivity” is often heard, and the new formula announced today is the same, but truth is that, for a company to be healthy financially, how the big bosses are paid is as important as what is decided for low-ranking workers. How the minimum wage should be fixed depends generally on the differences, not irrelevant economic figures that only people in business suits can understand.

With a lot of politicians owning _ or having close relatives who own _ businesses, minimum wage is much more political than it looks. Thailand has a tripartite (government, labour, entrepreneurs) committee tasked with deciding the lowest rate, which, of course, will affect the wages above it, but business owners in the panel always side with the government, a painful fact that always mocks the “tripartite” concept.

Democracy, rightly, is often associated with women’s rights, LGBTQ, free and fair elections and so on, but, wrongly, little has been said about one of the most important things _ the massive financial gap between people at the top of companies and those at the lowest level working for them.

Democracy can do better.

February 27, 2024: If the Palestinians were to build a statue of a US person, it would most likely be that of a US airman.

Aaron Bushnell was previously unknown in his country, and his self-immolation in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington on Sunday and its aftermath barely made headlines among western media for obvious political and diplomatic reasons, but ramifications will be huge.

He reportedly shouted “Free Palestine!!” repeatedly as he burned. His suicide message stressed that he would never let himself be “complicit in genocide”. Don’t cry for me and save your tears for the suffering Palestinians because their plights are far greater than mine, he practically told the world.

Currently, not much has been known about the 25-year-old man, except that he spent much of his childhood in a religious compound whose name had “Jesus” in it, grew up to hate control, domination and manipulation, loved The Lord of the Rings, liked karaoke and discussed “necessary sacrifices” with a peace-loving friend shortly before setting himself on fire.

One thing many people who knew him said is that he was not happy with the US role in the Gaza conflict.

May he rest in peace.

February 26, 2024: Politics can have an 81-year-old superpower leader plot another four-year reign, but football can see substitute kids brought on to replace starting-eleven kids and win a championship.

Liverpool’s Carabao Cup final victory on Sunday is much talked-about because it underlines the fact that youngsters are sports’ greatest strength, and the unparalleled power of youth is limitless if groomed well. Actually, this fact should cover other realms where adults, rightly or wrongly, have been currently monopolising scoring “goals”.

The Carabao Cup triumph is lauded as probably Jurgen Klopp’s greatest legacy at Liverpool, because while it is the least significant when sporting “accomplishments” and financial benefits are concerned, it shows he has built a strong foundation for the club.

The Liverpool academy boys playing in the cup final didn’t look cocky but they didn’t appear frightened, either. They are quietly confident, able and yet ready to go to the frontline when called upon.

February 25, 2024: Governments, which are more short-term oriented for obvious reasons, fight with central banks on a regular basis. That is politically fine as long as the public do not see or suspect a hidden agenda.

A usual source of conflicts is the interest rate. It’s again happening in Thailand. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has been demanding a reduction but Bank of Thailand Governor Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput is staying put. Inflation, deflation and all the economic jargon are in the conversation.

Srettha, seeking to borrow a massive amount of money to fund his digital wallet plan that will involve more private-sector borrowings if it gets implemented, must see to it that the showdown with the central bank stay away politically from the controversial project.

The reason why is simple. Normally, Thai governments’ problems with the Bank of Thailand did not make the administrations collapse, but Srettha’s situation is far from normal.

Independence of central banks varies from country to country. But one common theme is that every government wants to exert direct or indirect control over monetary and interest rate policies. Why clashes often occur is so understandable. Politicians think more about short-term benefits or results, particularly in “democratic” countries where rulers come and go.

Cue digital wallet and things can get really explosive.

February 24, 2024: In the big picture, there is nothing “private” about it. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s much-publicised arrival at Ban Chan Song La is a huge political indicator in more ways than one.

First, it further elevates Thaksin Shinawatra, whose special status and relevant treatment have occupied news space since the end of his exile last year. The prime minister’s visit is a “We aren’t going to half-pretend it any more” message from the man who runs the country. The shy, awkward admission by Srettha that Thaksin’s economic advice can be useful will become, well, less shy and less awkward.

Second, it shows Pheu Thai’s greater understanding of how to deal with political gossips. “Secret” meetings with Thaksin will keep issues alive forever, whereas an “open” encounter might create an uproar that will last for only two or three days.

Third, it’s an indication of how the relationships between Pheu Thai and its coalition allies are going. Srettha would not have visited Thaksin in a brand-new official car so quickly, so openly and so respectfully if the prime minister had believed that it would infuriate his partners. The allies would not be happy, of course, but the reactions would be along the lines of “Thaksin is a senior Pheu Thai person and the prime minister is also from Pheu Thai, so it’s natural that the two have to meet.”

February 23, 2024: Thaksin Shinawatra can drink alcohol but cannot get drunk, but that is not the toughest parole condition.

He has been informed of basic parole requirements, like those concerning travels and regularly reporting to the authorities, but what really stands out is that he is prohibited from mingling with people “who could make him repeat” his wrongdoing(s).

As we know, people involved in crimes that Thaksin was convicted of were basically everyone around him. His ex-wife Potjaman, for example, had much to do with the controversial Ratchadapisek land the family bought. Contentious government policies had Pheu Thai fingerprints all over them, so should he shut all Pheu Thai politicians out to be safe?

The association requirement is certainly harder than how to drink wines and avoid getting drunk.

February 22, 2024: One senior Democrat has raised an interesting point: The no-confidence debate should be about bread and butter, not politics that will not get anywhere.

Chaichana Dechdecho, a deputy Democrat leader, said digital wallet, minimum wage, and the salary issue for new graduates were all more important than the political treatment of Thaksin Shinawatra that has nothing or very little to do with well-being of Thais.

That’s one way to think about it. Another way is strategic. Talking about Thaksin will be tumultuous and most likely create media headlines, but the government camp might love it, because the issue was about divisive politics judged by feelings, ideological leaning and prejudice rather than evidence.

In other words, if you like or dislike the fact that Thaksin has managed to be a virtually-free man, the censure will not change your thinking. Everyone has had his or her mind made up before the censure.

On the other hand, if the opposition, for example, can create reasonable doubts about a private company standing to benefit from digital wallet, advocates of the programme can change their thoughts.

Most importantly, a mere mentioning of Thaksin’s name can lead to hours of protests and counter-protests on the parliamentary floor. They can be fiery and provide juicy headlines, but there would be nothing that the public had not known or felt about before.

And censure can’t go on forever. The government might be happy to kill a few hours that could have been spent on downright corruption or mishandling of the economy.

February 21, 2024: A YouTube parody clip showing Joe Biden call his country “The United States of Israel” was uploaded just days before America once again has vetoed a draft UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution on Israel’s war in Gaza.

The latest veto of the Algerian-proposed resolution prompted widespread criticism from both rivals and allies. It was the third US veto of a UNSC resolution demanding a ceasefire in Gaza, a measure Washington said (in a bewilderingly complex diplomatic statement) would disrupt the prospects of peace.

Amnesty International said the US has thrown away a good opportunity to do the right thing. Many countries, apparently trying not to be too rude, said they “regret” the US move. Palestine said it was a tacit greenlight for more Israeli violence.

Russia, who has flexed its own Security Council muscles a few times itself, said another “black page” had been written in the UN history. China said Washington had decided to send a wrong message to the world.

The veto came a day after Washington circulated a resolution that would support a temporary ceasefire linked to the release of all Israelis held hostage by the Hamas. It was a sensible demand that, however, was overshadowed by the great suffering of the numerous innocents in Gaza.

And in an election year, the veto would unlikely help Joe Biden.

The YouTube clip was among a mountain of online mockery targetting Biden’s age and gaffes at the moment, but it ended chillingly. The clip’s conclusion has a CGI Biden say on the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire programme that the A in USA stands for Israel. When host Regis Philbin, also a CGI, tried to correct him, saying it was “America”, CGI Biden asked the latter: Are you sure about that?

February 20, 2024: One woman may be watching with greater anxiety than most others the reactions of the Thai public to the virtual freedom of Thaksin Shinawatra.

Yingluck Shinawatra practically faces fewer legal troubles than Thaksin if she chooses to follow his footsteps and return to Thailand, and even political problems could be far less significant, according to analysts. In addition to that, any “deal” that may have been struck for the man to end his political exile must have included her, they say.

In short, it would be easier. Depending on local reactions to that picture of Thaksin sitting reflectively in the comfort of his home, that is.

The Shinawatras and the Pheu Thai-led government must be guardedly optimistic so far. On the one hand, there have not been massive, fiery protests. On the other hand, it has been just a couple of days and these things take time to sink in.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin today said the Cabinet had not addressed the issue of Yingluck, but he insisted that what has happened to Thaksin was in accordance with the law. A well-known academic, Charnvit Kasetsiri, whose ideological leaning is no secret, has even posted online that the Romance of the Three Kingdoms has become a Tale of Two Cities.

Yingluck surely will like his post.

February 19, 2024: If Thaksin Shinawatra died in a Thai prison, how would Thais and the rest of the world react? And if Alexei Navalny sat calmly by the pool of his house having been released from a Russian cell and looking anything but miserable, what would we be saying now?

There are differences in both cases, of course, but they have to be overshadowed by the glaring similarities. Late Navalny was a main enemy of the state, and so is (or was) Thaksin. The rebellious Russian opposition leader had a sizeable following and the western media and human rights people love him. Half of Thailand likes Thaksin, “the champion of democracy”, and it’s safe to say that much of the western media thought he was a victim of political persecution.

One man has died in prison, triggering all kinds of suspicion and prompting sad yet romantic reflections. The other has been freed, but even some “liberals” are politicizing his new-found liberty.

The irony is the same as flooding earthquake areas with life-saving machinery and manpower regardless of nationalities and religions while killing (and supporting the killing of) innocent women and children with wild abandon in an area designated as a war zone.

February 18, 2024: In a statement on the release of Thaksin Shinawatra from police custody, Thailand’s biggest political party appears as confused or ambivalent as anyone.

Is he a political victim who deserves better? Should law and order deserve utmost importance in a divided society clamouring for reconciliation? The Move Forward statement addresses those crucial questions without giving any clear-cut answer, declining to bang the table and display a definite stand one way or the other.

Here’s an English translation of the Facebook statement: “… Of course, if we look at the past, it’s undeniable that, as a prime minister ousted by a coup, Khun Thaksin did not get democratic justice he deserved, leading to a lot of people asking questions concerning fairness in cases and punishment that he received.

“But looking at the present, when Khun Thaksin has decided to bring himself back to face the country’s justice process, it’s also undeniable that the government’s explanations about his health and rules leading to his parole don’t stop the society from asking questions about equality and treatment of all politically-accused people.”

Make no mistake, there is not much more Move Forward can do. But if you were born to oppose capital punishment, would you say one unfairly-judged convict should remain on the death row because there are others who aren’t so lucky?

And in practically saying that since Thaksin has decided to face the Thai justice system, the system should function the way it was designed without exception, the statement carries a tricky notion that one should accept or respect the system where he or she is and that the system should treat him or her the way it should. When Move Forward is concerned, such thinking can come back to haunt it.

February 17, 2024: On the one hand, Thaksin Shinawatra will remain hounded by legal and constitutional troubles despite him preparing to spend the life of a virtually-free Thai. On the other hand, at 74 he can be Joe Biden’s youngest brother, with an apparently-good memory too.

He will not announce any political return plan after his imminent release from the Police Hospital. (Unless he wants his Article 112 issue to blow up in his face, that is. You wouldn’t want to immediately sound like a troublemaker after all the trouble others have gone through for you, would you?) All the public will hear is an old man’s calendar focusing on Shinawatra children and probably gardening.

But, remember, old habits die hard. His youngest daughter Paetongtarn looks like the last link between Pheu Thai and the Shinawatras and despite managing to drum up an initial “fever” across the country, she is struggling. Who can be the “savior” if her situation goes from bad to worse?

February 16, 2024: It seems that the Pheu Thai-led coalition government will get dizzy before implementing the grand scheme called “digital wallet”, due to never-ending reviews.

That’s the opinion of the key opposition figure tasked with tearing the agenda apart who, however, is yet to land a heavy punch.

“We at Move Forward are praying on the government’s behalf, hoping it can start someday,” taunted Sirikanya Tansakul, once tipped to be the finance minister.

Warnings from experts and government agencies are “unsurprisingly” forcing a delay, she said, adding that after listening to the prime minister’s latest comment, “it looks like things are going back to Square One.”

She said the government was “paddling a boat in a tub” which got it nowhere. This only increased the perception that the government was not taking an economic crisis seriously because nothing concrete and clear-cut was being prioritised, she added

February 15, 2024: Moscow may be influencing the outcome of the presidential race in America already.

In suggesting that he would rather see Joe Biden return to the White House instead of Donald Trump, Russian leader Vladimir Putin in effect has told every American voter that it would be easier for him if the former got re-elected.

And anti-Russia voters will keep that in mind.

Reportedly asked by the state media to choose between Biden and Trump, Putin said Biden was “more experienced, predictable, an old-school politician”. Putin, of course, dismissed age concern that is seriously plaguing Biden’s campaign for a second term.

Take that with a grain of salt. The Russian president’s comment followed Biden’s accusations that Trump was bowing down to him. That kind of claims dogged Trump’s presidency because the former president somehow was perceived in certain circles as having peculiar relations with Russia.

The latest Putin remark, his first foray into the possible rematch of the US presidential race, will be treated by many as a reverse psychology tactic. “Putin will be more comfortable with Biden so we will go for Trump” is what many Americans will think while casting their ballots.

Or maybe Putin was just being honest. If he was Barcelona, who would he want to meet in the Champions League final _ Real Madrid or a “predictable” and “old-school” football team?

Also, Putin was probably being polite when saying that worries about Biden’s age came about because the US election campaign was “getting more and more vicious”. He also said he had seen no evidence his counterpart was not fit for office.

Again, if Putin was a boxer, whom would he prefer to meet in the ring?

February 14, 2024: It’s a political theme that has nothing to do with the Valentine’s Day, although it has everything to do with fixated and maybe biased love. Journalistic commentaries pro and against newsmen brought into police custody following an anti-Article 112 incident at the Emerald Buddha Temple could be a “freedom of expression” to some, but to others ethical questions may be raised.

It’s not a Thai-exclusive trend, mind you. Fans of Russian leader Vladimir Putin may like American commentator Tucker Carlson for interviewing the former and letting him speak to the world without editing so the rest of the planet can judge for itself, but many US Democrats are calling him “Putin’s puppy”.

To be fair to Carlson’s critics, pro-Biden networks are being called Democrat pets, too. It’s a prerequisite now for politicians who want to go far to have friendly media on their sides. There is no exception even in countries whose politics is supposed to be more sophisticated than Thailand’s. In fact, the more “advanced” a country’s politics gets, the bigger need to control or manipulate the media one way or another.

February 13, 2024: The ruling coalition party can be drifting further and further away from the ideological territory it once occupied, and may be doing it in the worst possible time.

Pheu Thai’s situation is forcing it to react to key incidents of the hour in a way it would not have done had things been different. Moreover, when Thaksin Shinawatra walks home, such issues as the royal motorcade incident, to which a senior Pheu Thai Cabinet member has reacted strongly, and the arrest of reporters reportedly covering a grave anti-Article 112 activity can put Pheu Thai under a worse spotlight for one side of the ideological divide.

Electorally, Pheu Thai’s loss is Move Forward’s gain. And vice versa. The two parties have been too far apart to be reunited. Move Forward’s advantage is that, as an opposition party, its hands are less tied. Pheu Thai, meanwhile, will have to be more concerned about which way the wind blows.

February 12, 2024: It has come to the point where whoever wins the US presidential election, half of Americans will deem him or her a new-age Hitler.

It has also come to the point where the Hitler scenario can be good news comparatively, because political divide is forever spreading and triggering rumours about something worse.

The “Hitler” accusation is serious, as the campaign late this year will revolve around it and little else. The Democratic Party deeming Donald Trump democracy’s most dangerous threat is not news, and that smear is beginning to cover the whole Republican Party, intentionally or not. The latter, meanwhile, is saying that the White House is doing and abusing everything it can _ misusing parliamentary strength, wielding control of the justice system and exploiting partisan media _ to get an increasingly popular politician loved by at least half of the American public out of the way just like what “dictatorial” regimes would do.

According to Tulsi Gabbard, a former Democrat star who has turned against Joe Biden spectacularly, White House hypocrisy is reaching a new height because the office is leaving no stone unturned in finding undemocratic means to block democracy and all the while disguising it as an attempt to protect democracy. It was a view shared by millions of Republicans.

American politics or “democracy” as we know it depends, virtually solely, on the general acceptance of presidential election results. The system will crumble if the acceptance cannot be sustained. However, such acceptance could be fragile or close to non-existent regardless of who wins this time.

One half accusing the other of being dictatorial is a paradox now which will continue in the foreseeable future, affecting values being preached to the rest of the world. When the American president next year condemns authoritarianism somewhere, he or she will be asked: “Your political rivals call you a Hitler, don’t they?”

February 11, 2024: The government should not put all eggs in the digital wallet basket, as dealing with an economic crisis requires a Plan B, according to the main opposition party.

The strange message from Move Forward’s economic leader, Sirikanya Tansakul, underlined a dilemma facing the biggest political camp: Going against digital wallet with all guns blazing will raise a lot of questions regarding its past treatment of the main platform of its former ally, while not criticising the policy at all will also make everyone frown.

“They should have a substitute policy,” Sirikanya said. “We all know how risky their chosen path is. An economic crisis requires measures that are certain. It’s not right for everybody to wait for digital wallet to be a white knight. This doesn’t mean we (the opposition) aren’t seeing government efforts to resurrect the economy. Only that we are seeing very slim chances, and as of today it’s still a toss-up.”

She said that even if the project managed to go ahead, “accidents” could still happen along the way. For example, complaints might be filed at the Constitutional Court regarding the government’s need to strictly exercise financial or monetary discipline.

“We need a Plan B. The economy is in a critical condition now but all possible solutions are depending on one uncertain and risky policy,” she said.

February 10, 2024: Political bookies are, probably heavily, slashing odds on the previously-high possibility that Joe Biden and Donald Trump will square off for a White House race again, amid growing concern over the former’s age and legal uncertainties facing the latter.

Now, it can also be Biden against somebody else, or Trump against somebody else, or it can be someone else against someone else in the presidential race entirely.

What was once a topic of political taunts or jokes took a much more serious turn this week after a special counsel investigation officially described Biden as an “elderly man with a poor memory”. It was part of a political probe into how Biden handled classified documents in the past, which sounded like a political game because Trump himself is facing similar charges of poorly handling classified documents with greater legal consequences.

While Biden can be let off the hook regarding legal troubles, the “poor memory” description is a big political bombshell. A hurriedly-arranged White House press conference designed to address both the classified document and age issues backfired drastically when he ended up confusing the leaderships of Mexico and Egypt.

To be fair, the man apparently was having Gaza and Texas in his mind and thus mixing them up, and he had a history of gaffes involving names and places when he was younger. But this time he chose the worst timing possible to be forgetful. Normally, questions surrounding his age were limited to the circles of political enemies, but now it’s a full-scale national discussion making the Democratic Party think very seriously about its election nominee.

“It’s coming thick and fast,” one political analyst said about Biden’s gaffes, amid escalating suspicion that it wasn’t just about natural verbal mistakes this time. Videos of Biden’s press conference flooded YouTube, with a great majority of comments either mocked him and expressed grave concern.

His party still has time to think about his re-election push, but the clock is ticking if it does want another candidate now. Age will play a big role in the presidential race and, most importantly, it’s an issue that every family is identified with. Taxation is debatable, and so is whether Israel is carrying out a “self-defence”, whether America should leave Ukraine alone, or whether Taxas should be entitled to laying down razor wires along the Mexican border, or how much inflationary numbers should worry Americans.

What an 81-year-old man should do is a lot less so, in the opinions of voters at least.

February 9, 2024: The enormity of Nualphan Lamsam’s task can be seen in the congratulatory message from FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

“Congratulations to Nualphan Lamsam on being elected as the president of the Football Association of Thailand, becoming the first woman to assume the position of president of a national football association in Asia,” he said in an online post hours after she won the FAT election overwhelmingly.

Name a Thai woman you think is most associated with football. Nualphan has been deeply involved with the sport for years, and the Thai media have always accorded her the friendliness that male FAT presidents in the past never got.

But the buck stops with her now, and as cautionary as Infantino’s message is the truth that in football, you are as good as your last game.

February 8, 2024: Only in America can politics go off the charts when a sitting president declines an interview before a big sporting event.

To be fair to the White House, if Joe Biden was 10 years younger, his refusal to give a traditional Super Bowl interview would not have caused such a big fuss. Now, his age and re-election bid are combining to make it a big political matter.

It also underlines what mockers say looks increasingly like a huge dilemma for the Democratic Party: Should they let him be an ordinary great-grandpa that his political opponents claim he is nothing but, or let him run for the second term and watch with held breath every time he faces a challenging situation in public?

The Republicans, hoping that nothing happens to their presidential hopeful Donald Trump, are drooling over his debate showdown with Biden. If both officially square off for the Oval Office race, that is.

The 81-year-old president is always mocked by rivals for occasional gaffes or mumbles, which they link to his age. But the Super Bowl decision has gone beyond the opponents making fun of it, with mainstream media commentators doubting whether his “handlers” have decided not to “risk it”.

Online comments also make it a serious issue, not least because this marks the second year in a row Biden will skip the interview. Last year the decision was attributed to the conservative-leaning Fox News making the request, as Fox was airing the Super Bowl at the time.

Trump joyously and playfully offered to replace him for this year’s interview, saying his presence will be “Ratings Gold”. And while he has naturally been rejected, Biden skipping the chance to talk to 100 million Americans is already Trump’s gains, according to US political analysts and even some Democrats.

More stats are chiming in. Journalists have counted 86 Biden interviews during his first three years in office, comparing the number to some 300 interviews that Trump gave and 422 that Barack Obama did during their first three years in the White House.

February 7, 2024: Elections for a new Football Association of Thailand president are a replica of larger-scale politics anywhere else, and the biggest challenge on Thursday remains the same one plaguing the country for years and years.

Can the association shake off bad politics and do what it should?

It’s the same old question asked by the public and presented by those seeking FAT powers and interests all the time, only for the question to get lost amid the sport’s corrupt realities, which go far beyond the Thai borders and are frequently dictated by what happens at the FIFA, the world’s governing body.

Over 70 representatives of Thai football clubs, women football, beach football and official futsal networks will vote to elect the new FAT team, an election with a bad history of controversial rule changes and cutthroat rivalry that has divided not just football authorities but also everybody else associated with the sport including journalists and the general public.

This year’s election is more or less the same in many aspects. The biggest issue is how the FAT can balance interests of clubs and country which often clashed at the expense of the development of the national team and local talent.

Should clubs allow players to train with the national team’s staff any time if need be? Should powerful persons in the working team of a popular candidate resign from their clubs and work full-time for the FAT? These are just example questions. The full list is lengthy.

February 6, 2024: For entertainment purposes only, the following politicians should have their opinions sought by the media on Thaksin Shinawatra’s latest legal troubles.

1 Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, because he founded what has become a major political movement campaigning against Article 112 and has respectfully met Thaksin in person while the latter was still in exile.

2 Srettha Thavisin, because his one hat is that of a prime minister who is supposed to enforce the law while his other hat is that of someone deeply associated with the Pheu Thai Party.

3 Paetongtarn Shinawatra, because her one hat is that of the leader of a major coalition government party while her other hat is that of Thaksin’s daughter.

4 All non-Pheu Thai coalition parties’ leaders, because they don’t like Thaksin that much but need to pacify Pheu Thai as much as they can.

5 Pita Limjaroenrat, because it will be interesting to compare his opinion with that of Thanathorn.

6 Democrat leaders, because it will be interesting to compare their opinions with those from Move Forward.

7 Tawee Sodsong, because he’s the justice minister.

February 5, 2024: Texas secessionists being a lot more belligerent and emboldened than ever and the recent ruling by the International Court of Justice embarrassing both Israel and America are causing massive election-year complications in the United States that threaten to throw the world into turmoil.

Both mammoth issues may not be big highlights in mainstream international media at the moment, but they can actually dictate a lot of big global developments, not least the presidential election in America, its run-up and the country’s tension with other nations.

Texas’ defiance of the federal government has received big support literally from every US state that has a Republican governor, taking America’s already-boiling political divide to a new highly-dangerous level. The showdown has also increased Donald Trump’s chances to return to the White House, something the Democrats big and small generally cannot accept.

All of these mean Trump’s and Joe Biden’s nominations are in doubt, and the November presidential race outcome, either way it goes, can cause an upheaval.

Meanwhile, last month’s judgment from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has not just come as some vindication for the 2.3 million Palestinians trapped in the hellish enclave, but a major test of America’s humanitarian values and the world’s religious balancing act. The ruling will also amplify questions about the United Nations.

Fifteen out of 17 jurists, legal experts from around the world, found it plausible that Israel has been committing genocide against Palestinians, although the country was not exactly ruled to be a genocide campaigner. Algeria has drafted another UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, something that  the United States has repeatedly vetoed despite the skyrocketing death toll among innocent women and children in Gaza. (A new US veto will further puzzle the world which is seeing prompt retaliatory strikes following the deaths of three US soldiers based in the Middle East.)

The UNSC draft demands all parties to comply with international law and calls for full, rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access into and throughout the entire Gaza Strip. Similar attempts to help the Palestinians were rejected by the United States before, but the ICJ ruling will force some to change their stands in a good-case scenario, or lead to smart distraction tactics in a bad one, or trigger something horrible as a set-zero in the worst-case possibility.

Cue Russia (whose “genocide” case regarding Ukraine has been handled by the ICJ as well) and China and 2024 can be a very long year.

February 4, 2024: Two words for the Pheu Thai-led government, which has insisted that a big majority of surveyed Thais wanted digital wallet: Move Forward.

The biggest party means different things to different people, and its popularity can be a subject for debate all day long, but let’s take that out of the equation. The last thing the government should have done is saying that digital wallet has to go ahead because “the majority wants it”.

Unfortunately, the Pheu Thai Party has done so, regardless of what it did in the wake of the May election last year. Speaking to reporters, government spokesman Chai Watcharong insisted that a vast majority of Thais (71.6% among those with monthly salaries between Bt15,000 and Bt35,000 and 57.5% among those getting more than Bt35,000 monthly) has “confidence in and is waiting for” digital wallet according to the latest Super Poll survey.

The opinion poll was conducted between February 1 and 3 and covered 1,120 Thais.

“We listen to every opinion and are ready to go ahead with a policy that we are confident will happen,” said Chai, after mentioning the poll.

February 3, 2024: American attacks on Friday night on over 80 targets across seven locations in Syria and Iraq were called a measured response with world peace in mind. The real motive for the apparently-“limited” military operation may be something else.

The US presidential election is coming this year, and a big war caused by the deaths of three US soldiers may not be a smart idea. Joe Biden’s approval rating among Americans has sunk so low that the Republicans might be delighted if the ageing leader is confirmed as the Democratic Party’s nominee. This is therefore not a time for him to say that if you killed three American soldiers we will send 100 of you to the graveyard.

Make no mistake, more US strikes are apparently on the way in the aftermath of a reported drone attack by Iran-backed militants on a US military outpost in Jordan a few days ago that killed three American military personnel. But obviously, the timing is bad for the president to act tough in order to bolster his sagging popularity. A big war will be costly for one thing. Another thing is that it would follow the Gaza embarrassment which has made the world further doubt American military objectives although it has been exclusively Israel who fired missiles and dropped bombs. Last but not least, a large-scale war with Iran could spiral into something very horrible, and Biden on the election year would not want the perception that he sparked it.

So, Friday’s operations (damage reports of which remain sketchy as of now) have concern about the presidential race written all over them, and so will the United States’ future strikes. Avenging the soldiers’ deaths is not hard. What is difficult is how to hit hard enough to show the world and American public that Washington was not standing still, and at the same time “softly” enough to avoid negative political, military and economic consequences and their possible mixture.

February 2, 2024: One thing that can make Move Forward a little less worried about a major crackdown is at the Police Hospital.

A certain political watcher and famous law lecturer, Jet Donavanik, basically said that sometimes divide and rule has great virtues. Pheu Thai is already powerful and in the government, so it might not be a good idea to let its rise go unchecked, said Jet, quoted by The Manager.

A crackdown on Move Forward leadership could do exactly that, he warned. Or it could have an opposite effect of boosting Move Forward’s popularity comes the next election, said Jet, whose political opinion is often sought.

He implied that this week’s Constitutional Court’s warning was strong enough, provided that Move Forward chose to tone down its stand on Article 112. If Move Forward ploughed on defiantly in complete disregard for what the Constitutional Court said, bringing masses to its side and causing divisiveness in the process, legal and constitutional troubles could intensify against the party, Jet noted.

Dissolving Move Forward would lead to one of the two scenarios that cannot be good for the conservatives, he said. The first one has Move Forward grow uncontrollably and overshadow Thailand while the latter has Move Forward shrunk but Pheu Thai and Thaksin Shinawatra get much stronger.

February 1, 2024: Legal and political actions are in full swing following Wednesday’s ruling against the Move Forward Party by the Constitutional Court. Thai politics has revolved around them for too long and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future, at the expense of the fact that there many issues that require serious and immediate attention.

Complaints for and against Move Forward have been launched or are to be launched. Meanwhile, political efforts will be put into making Move Forward look a martyr or a demon. Formerly, it was Pheu Thai. Now it is Move Forward.

Through all that, bribe-seeking police have been laughing all the way to the bank; pubs have been exploiting loopholes or using improper connections; Thai students have been embarrassed at international contests; exporters, importers and entrepreneurs have been worried more about election results than how to improve their businesses; and narcotic drugs have continued to zigzag their ways into the Thai society.

Like during the Prayut government and all its predecessors, there will be protests during Srettha Thavisin’s reign. But the protests will not make Thailand find genuine and immediate solutions to the real, aforementioned problems. The upcoming protests are part of a politics that shouldn’t be.

In a truly ideal world, the Kamnan Nok scandal must force Parliament to work together endlessly and tirelessly to revamp the Police Department; the education ministerial portfolio must be the most important, given to an expert with real knowledge and suitable networks, not a political faction leader to pacify disgruntled politicians; and major construction or public transport disasters must set better standards and not be used as tools for political rhetoric that everyone will forget in a heartbeat.

For too long, we Thais have been wondering if we are barking up the wrong tree and how much time we have lost in doing so.

 

Daily updates of local and international events by Tulsathit Taptim