14 July 2024

February 28, 2023: They are an eyesore, dangerous to commuters and harmful to the environment, but it is never an election without posters. Reasons behind that are obvious, and here’s some interesting information to kill boredom of the viewing.

First thing first, whether you like them or not, each of the campaign posters makes your eyes linger on it for up to four or five seconds, numerous studies show. In other words, you don’t “look” at a tree but you will look at a tree with a poster. But, and this is a big but, if the same tree then becomes plastered with too many posters, you don’t look at it anymore. This explains why many candidates like to be the first to have their photos on the streets.

Secondly, designs matter. Eye-tracking analyses in many labs confirm that posters with good images attract more attention than those with texts. Mugshot photos of election candidates are less memorable than, say, pictures of the candidates hugging some old, poorly-dressed people.

Thirdly, plenty of surveys show that better-looking candidates win more votes.

Then, many researches also reveal that humour or satire work better against opponents. So, instead of saying straightforwardly that “Vote for me and … is out”, a candidate may be better off putting the … photo in his or her poster and saying “He’s a good reason for you to vote for me.”

Last but not least, politicians must beware of their own supporters’ posters. Fan clubs have good intentions, but they can get too emotional and produce posters that can cause a backlash.

To sum it up, that many people don’t like election posters (An Irish website poll asking if those things, which are made mostly of environmentally harmful materials, should be banned, attracted nearly 13,000 votes and 88 of them said yes.) doesn’t mean the eyesores are not impactful.

By the way, you might soon remember the good old days “when the streets were strewn with election messages”. Even in the upcoming election, signs are that you must get ready for what promises to be the most intense ever election campaign taking place on your mobile phone.

February 27, 2023: Just when Jatuporn Prompan increased pressure on Pheu Thai regarding its possible yet unlikely alliance with Palang Pracharath, the latter party’s leader kept the controversial prospect alive with a very curious comment.

Prawit Wongsuwan, in a lengthy online post, practically said he had learned to appreciate “democracy” more over the past few years.

To cut the long posting short, he said he understood wishes of Thai “elites” who want to see better and cleaner politics and whose criticism has been directed at orthodox politicians in the system. “It’s very unfortunate that those people (the elites) haven’t had a chance to serve the country whose system prescribes administrative quotas according to numbers of elected representatives in Parliament. The only way the elites could exercise their ability is through a government with special powers, albeit following a coup only. I have served in the military so I understand those wishes very well,” he said.

“But after I have mingled with politicians and led a political party myself, I have earned another experience. (And that experience) led me to understand the need to push the country forward with democracy.”

He also said that “no matter what politicians are like”, the system stated that it was the stakeholders, or the people, must select those among them (the orthodox politicians) to rule the country. With the two “experiences” in him, Prawit said he wanted to reunify Thailand.

Some would love that comment and others would hate it, and it could be a polite declaration that he and Prayut Chan-o-cha have key differences now. A few would say it significantly upgrade the Pheu Thai-Palang Pracharath rumours.

Interpret Prawit’s comment as you like, but one Jatuporn Prompan would say it only magnify his “fears.”

In an online Live over the weekend, he said Pheu Thai had yet to respond to a simple question whether it would join hands with Prawit after the election. “Just a Yes or No will do,” Jatuporn said. “More complex post-coup deals were struck, so the Prawit deal must be easy.”

He also asked Pheu Thai to drop elitist beating-around-the-bush explanation. “Just tell me in the grass-roots language whether you will form a government with Prawit or not,” Jatuporn said, adding that it would be a shame if Pheu Thai won the biggest popular mandate but opted to back Prawit as prime minister.

February 26, 2023: “It could have been us … and it could have been Ukraine … and it could have been some third party country that wanted to see trouble.” That’s what ex-president of the United States Donald Trump said regarding what a famous investigative American journalist described as the “dumbest act” of his nation in years.

Trump’s answer came after a considerable pause, following a direct “Do you believe it?” question by famous media personality Glenn Beck who interviewed him late last week. The former American president did not think the Russians did it, saying they would not have blown up a key source of income “just to make a point.”

Beck was referring to a Seymour Hersh report claiming the explosions last year were an act of sabotage committed primarily by the United States. Outcast former American intelligence analyst Edward Snowden added fire to the shocking accusation by saying stories about mysterious objects over US skies were a misdirection tactic aimed at distracting news coverages.

Trump also noted that Russia and China seem to be unifying against their common enemies, and that may be the “most dangerous thing that could happen for our country.” The former president did not rule out the possibility of a World War III.

Hersh is not Trump’s biggest fan, apparently, but he said that even the former president was unlikely to be that clumsy. The world famous journalist said on the Nord Stream gas pipeline blasts in one of the latest interviews: “I think that this has probably been, in the view of some of the people who did it, one of the dumbest things the American government has done in years – and we have had four years of Trump.” There would be more revelations, Hersh claimed.

February 25, 2023: Arguably the government’s most authoritative legal announcer has said that the House of Representatives should be dissolved within the middle of next month.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam also looked at a piece of Election Commission paper in front of reporters, who managed to see what was written in it, according to Thai Post.

It was a prospective election timeline. In it, the EC assumed that the day for House dissolution is March 15 and the general election is May 7.

He was careful about his public comments, though. When asked if March 15 was marked for House dissolution, Wissanu said: “It should not be beyond that day. But I can’t say exactly when. It could be sooner.”

February 24, 2023: Thailand’s oldest political party might have to take a new stance on how the next prime minister should be installed if it wanted to bring a famous former leader back to the fold.

Former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva resigned as the Democrat leader after the last election, and then quit Parliament. Electoral humiliation was said to be the main reason for his first move, and the second move was linked to the rise to premiership of Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Now, the Democrats said publicly that they wouldn’t mind if currently-dormant Abhisit was to be an election runner for the party and even its other prime ministerial candidate after current leader Jurin Laksanawisit. But, in an interview on Thursday, Abhisit sounded non-committal. He said he would rather discuss the party’s ideological ideas with Jurin before making a decision.

“To me, playing politics is not specifically about being in the government,” Abhisit said, insisting that nobody should question his political passion after what he had been doing. “I think parties must be ready to be in the opposition as well. What is the most important is how to best serve the country in our position. So, being in or outside the government is not a condition for me. What matters more is our direction from here on out.”

When he was Democrat leader before the last general election, Abhisit vowed not to support Prayut. But after a staggering defeat, which was attributed by some to his problems with Prayut, he left the party’s helm and could not stop the Democrats from being in the Prayut coalition. When he resigned as an MP, he reasoned that millions of Democrat fans voted with his vow in mind. He didn’t say it out loud but he seemed to suggest that he could not be part of a betrayal.

Prayut is now a member of a political party, but the Senate still holds a big say on who would be the next prime minister, a rule Abhisit apparently does not like. If the Democrat Party told him it would take the Senate out of the equation and would back whoever gets the biggest support in the House of Representatives, the Democrats might be able to “reactivate” a former leader who was once a rising star of Thai politics.

During the Thursday interview, Abhisit said he would still help the party’s election campaign. But it looked anything but a solid pledge of allegiance.

Of all politicians, Abhisit is among those whose tightropes are the narrowest. He used to say he hated it when Thaksin Shinawatra and dictatorship forced people to take sides. The Democrat Party under his reign fought Thaksin’s camp tooth and nail but he also was an outstanding critic of Prayut.

February 23, 2023: The only thing more stunning than the Piyabutr-Pita online spat is the speed of their fence-mending.

The prominent boys of the anti-establishment camp have made jaws drop with comments like “Pita (Limjaroenrat) is opportunistic and totally the wrong man for Move Forward” and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul was “rocking the boat” and making the entire Move Forward apparatus “forget who the real enemies are.”

Their dramatic clash was all over the internet on Wednesday, February 22, and “I can’t believe it” was literally the exclamation of virtually every news commentator of the mainstream media. But the dropping jaws hit the floor within hours with news of the two men making peace.

“How mean they are,” tweeted Pheu Thai cheerleader Lakkhana Panwichai, better known as Kam Phaka. She was bemoaning the fast development that threatened to make her “analysis” of the Move Forward “internal turmoil” on her online programme become outdated in record time. A viewer of her programme also said in a tweet that Piyabutr and Pita “should have let Kam Phaka finish her talk on the estrangement first.”

February 22, 2023: Election time is actually not an occasion to create new promises, but it’s an opportunity to be creative about the otherwise worn-out ones like “reform”, “reconciliation”, “change”, “greatness”, “equality” or “fairness”.

In other words, election is an ideal moment to try to make same-old pledges look new.

There are a few exceptions, though. Bhumjaithai put cannabis in its campaign posters last time and a controversy is still on-going due to its relentless efforts over the past few years. Pheu Thai’s 600-baht-a-day wage for unskilled workers during this election campaign is a daring promise, and the public will know who to blame if it falls through.

But, by and large, it’s either a recycling exercise or making a promise too bold to be taken seriously. Additionally, some vows are made because people who make them know they will never be in a position to implement them.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is the latest to join the “do” bandwagon. “Have done it. Doing it. Will keep doing it” is his slogan. This is to compete with Bhumjaithai’s “We do what we talk”, the Democrats’ “We listen, we think and we do” and Pheu Thai’s “Think big and can do it”.

So, “do” is the verb of the hours.

February 21, 2023: It’s comments like Somsak Thepsuthin’s that keep the Pheu Thai-Palang Pracharath rumour alive.

In a talk with the media today, first he said he still stood by his earlier remark that the Palang Pracharath Party would be in the next government “99%”. To say one is “very confident” is one thing, but to say one is “99% confident” is quite another.

The reason for the extreme confidence? “People are coming to us from all over town. When they don’t know where to go, Palang Pracharath is the first party they think of,” he said.

Then the justice minister and Palang Pracharath executive went on to say it was the media’s “imagination” that political parties in Thailand are divided into two camps that can never be reconciled with each other. He said in a lecturing tone that politicians start deciding among themselves who go left and who go right after the election.

It is against a backdrop of the unlikely Pheu Thai-Palang Pracharath marriage speculation, which despite everything has been persistent. He might just want to sound nice or polite, it can be argued.

Or he was doing what all politicians do _ keep the options open.

February 20, 2023: Russia and Ukraine have sent aid. So have the United States and China, as well as England and Argentina. According to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, among the countries that have helped include Greece, Armenia and Israel, all of whom have had traditional diplomatic trouble with Turkey.

As of last week, close to 100 nations have provided help, and almost 20 international organisations have shipped in with relief and emergency efforts. Medical kits, heaters, food, generators, temporary shelters and high-tech equipment to help locate trapped people poured into Turkey and Syria. Scores of nations sent search-and-rescue teams.

Islam, Christianity and Judaism have come together. India and Pakistan must have worked side by side. Iranian and American relief items must have mixed somehow. There was genuine joy everywhere when just a single human being was pulled out of the wreckage. Since the tragedy happened, some 8,000 people have been saved from the debris, a human feat that is a great wonder but also a sad reminder of unfulfilled potentials.

February 19, 2023: The opposition parties can live without attacking the Prayut government over the existence of “grey businesses” operated by foreigners in Thailand, according to an opinion poll conducted after last week’s “No-vote censure”.

The Super Poll’s findings following a survey of 1,571 Thais showed that over half of those questioned agreed with the prime minister’s counter charges linking influences of notorious Chinese businessmen to a major political party on the opposition bloc; and felt that raising the issue in Parliament did not bode well for that party.

A greater number, however, wanted the government to take drastic action against “grey-area” businessmen and punishment must include citizenship revocation, expulsion and declaration as personae non gratae.

The same opinion poll also said Prayut Chan-o-cha was quietly climbing the popularity ranking, being second now behind Pheu Thai’s Paetongtarn Shinawatra. Specifically, she has 28.5% support compared with Prayut’s 25.7%. Anutin Charnvirakul of the Bhumjaithai Party came third with 21.2% followed by Move Forward’s Pita Limjaroenrat who got 14.4%.

Super Poll researchers said acquired data suggested the great Thaksin divide would come to dominate the next election again.

February 18, 2023: CNN is bashing Fox News, its perceived ideological rival. Absolute silence is what the mainstream media are treating a bombshell allegation of an award-winning American investigative journalist. Some news reports are getting played up or played down not for public interests, but for the benefits of the powers-that-be preferred by particular media entities. Welcome to a world where press freedom is increasingly not what it’s supposed to be.

Fears of ideologically-leaning audiences deserting have added to concern that certain kinds of reporting may not get satisfactory viewership, a big survival issue nowadays. This is what CNN is hitting Fox News with, unconcerned about possible counter-attacks and seemingly untroubled by the suggestion that even lopsided outlets should be allowed to exist in a democracy to allow the public to get a chance of comparing information.

In an analysis titled “Fox News has been exposed as a dishonest organization terrified of its own audience”, CNN said “Fox News did not live up to the basic journalistic principle that news organizations are supposed to deliver the news to viewers, without fear or favor. Instead, the right-wing talk channel engineered its coverage to appeal to its audience which was actively being lied to by Donald Trump and his campaign surrogates.”

Fox could just hit back by saying Joe Biden must have lied as well. And “deliver news without fear or favor” is a glaring statement when the latest “exposure” by famous investigative journalist Seymour Hersh is concerned.

Hersh’s explosive claims that the United States led a covert operation to blow up the Nord Stream pipelines in September 2022 has met with, in the words of a critical article, “absolute crickets”. There has been a dearth of mainstream coverage, with only brief reports by Bloomberg, Agence France Presse, The Times (UK) and the New York post. The Washington Times wrote sympathetically about it and Newsweek has also addressed it.

According to Responsible Statecraft, which published the article, all other newspapers of record — the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal — and key European outlets — BBC, the Guardian, and most German newspapers have ignored it. The claims were covered on FOX News, but the likes of another CNN or MSNBC “are seemingly on board with what appears to be a total mainstream media blackout.”

The issue is not whether Hersh was telling the truth, or whether he has done his job rightly. Those questions are for the mainstream media, whose behaviours, according to the Responsible Statecraft article, can be bad for democracy in the long run.

February 17, 2023: The issue of Chinese “grey businesses” and the perceived legal farce in the case of the Red Bull heir are once again rocking Thai politics thanks to the “no-vote censure” in Parliament and one Jatuporn Prompan.

In Parliament, the government called for a history check after being blamed for growing influences of Chinese operating grey-area businesses in Thailand. The administration said one household name, Tuhao, was given Thai citizenship while the Pheu Thai Party was overseeing the Interior Ministry.

Whatever happened in the past, Tuhao became Chaiyanat Kornchayanant, managing increasingly profitable and controversial businesses as well as building political connections. It is believed that his activities, if totally laid bare, encompassed both sides in Thailand’s ideological divide.

Jatuporn, meanwhile, asked Thaksin Shinawatra to answer “simple questions” of whether he (Thaksin) had ever met Vorayuth Yoovidhya’s father, whether he (Thaksin) had ever “called anyone and made any request” and whether he (Thaksin) “was involved in anyway” with the long, drawn-out case.

“I just have heard things and I want him to swear (that they aren’t true),” Jatuporn said.

Like Tuhao, the curious case of “Boss” (Vorayuth’s nickname) transcends political differences. When Vorayuth crashed his supercar into a motorcycle, killing a police officer, Yingluck Shinawatra was Thailand’s prime minister and few people heard of Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit or Piyabutr Saengkanokkul. At the time, the majority of the world’s population only knew Donald Trump as “Mr Miss Universe”. Leicester City, who pulled off one of the greatest sporting miracles in 2016, were not even in the Premier League. The case can still startle politicians on both sides of the political divide nowadays.

What looked then like a solid fatal hit-and-run incident that took place under alleged influences of alcohol and/or drugs has involved allegations of bribery and using of political influences to interfere with the justice system. One committee after another has been set up to no avail.

February 16, 2023: Cue Edward Snowden and the mystery of mysterious “objects” over American skies is certainly bound to deepen. But the man’s claims are getting credit in no small measure from a story published by a Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist.

Snowden, whose supporters call a heroic whistle-blower but Washington deems a traitor and made him an outcast, said the alleged Chinese “spy” balloon and mysterious objects controversy was in fact an old-fashioned misdirection tactic of the US government. He elaborated that America is manufacturing panic to distract journalists from their work of digging into the Nord stream blast last year.

His claims escaped much attention initially but just as the flying objects plot has thickened, so has a conspiracy theory. It has been reported that another high-profile man is also turning heads. Seymour Hersh, an investigative journalist with a track record of breaking major stories, published what was called a bombshell report on Substack last week that alleges the Americans were behind the explosion of the Nord Stream pipelines that connect Russia to western Europe. According to Hersh, an American investigative journalist, political writer and Pulitzer Prize winner, an anonymous source with inside knowledge of the operation has confirmed that the US government was involved in the planning and execution of the sabotage, which took place on September 26, 2022.

It is an explosive journalistic move, which must have drastically increased the tension between Russia and the West.

Helsinki Times reported that, according to Hersh’s source, the decision to sabotage the pipeline came directly from US President Joe Biden and was the result of a highly secretive debate that lasted months within Washington’s national security community. Hersh’s anonymous source even claimed that the issue during the debate was not whether to carry out the mission, but how to avoid getting caught. The deliberations reportedly involved extensive planning, underlining the high level of importance placed on the issue.

Washington is yet to react to it. With the mainstream media reluctant to join the two men’s extreme path, there is still breathing space. But whispers and gossips are getting louder.

February 15, 2023: The Prayut government was boasting about the wrong international rankings, Thailand’s opposition seems to suggest during what was considered an informal censure.

The administration has trumpeted the latest “democracy” and “Asia’s power” indexes that yielded some positive surprises for the country, but said nothing about the apparent freefall from the year Prayut Chan-o-cha staged the coup up until last year.

Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat said the decline by several places from 85th in 2014 reflected an “empty promise” made when Prayut seized power. Last year, Thailand was 101st on the Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International. Denmark, Finland and New Zealand were first, second and third respectively. The bottom of the 180-nation index was Somalia.

Pita pointed out that Thailand was above Vietnam when Prayut first took over but that is no longer the case.

He was speaking in Parliament, supplementing Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew’s claims that things were worse nowadays politically and economically, with government attention focused on personal expediency rather than public interests.

February 14, 2023: Accusations have become mutual now. China has alleged that American high-altitude balloons have been flying illegally into its airspace more than 10 times since January 2022.

The White House immediately rebutted those claims, of course, as bilateral tensions strained over the usual political matters like Hong Kong and Taiwan keep degenerating to cover weird espionage accusations.

Both superpowers’r rocky ties have been made rockier lately by the shooting down of an alleged Chinese balloon by American fighter jets after, claimed Washington, it travelled across the continental US.

Now China says it is preparing to shoot down an unidentified object flying near its eastern coast.

At a regular news conference on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson claimed it is “common for US balloons to illegally enter other countries’ airspace.”

“Since last year alone, American high-altitude balloons have illegally crossed China’s airspace more than 10 times without the approval of relevant Chinese authorities,” Wang said, quoted by CNN.

The ballooning diplomatic trouble is taking place against a no-less intriguing backdrop of unidentified flying objects being detected and blown out of the skies in northern America. A sizeable political storm is battling the White House, and somewhat rightly so, as all of the “intruding” airborne objects were apparently no match for US fighter jets and there should have been a better way of taking them down instead of blowing them up in mid-air and destroying most, if not all, of the evidence.

February 13, 2023: Suspend your cliché knowledge acquired from movies on how to treat mysterious aircraft that are very small, apparently harmless and relatively slow-flying.

In the movies, they would try to “capture” the objects and examine them thoroughly, with all the experts and scientists mobilized to a secret location to check where they had come from, what gears had been mounted on them and how such unorthodox shapes were able to fly.

In real life they blew them to pieces, and scattered debris reportedly made it hard to tell all of the above. Or so it seems. Perhaps all the questions have been answered already but the powers-that-be don’t want the rest of the world to know about it.

Here’s a recap (press reports as of late afternoon, Thailand time): Another unidentified object was shot down over the Great Lakes region Sunday at the direction of President Joe Biden, according to CNN.

The network, quoting officials, said the object was shaped like an octagon with strings hanging off it and did not appear to be carrying anything. It was downed by US F-16 fighter jets on Sunday and was flying at 20,000 feet over Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was about to go over Lake Huron when it met its doom.

This marks the third day in a row that an unidentified object was shot down over North American airspace, CNN said. Earlier, an object, apparently similar in size at least, was shot down over northern Canada on Saturday. On Friday, another unidentified object was blown up over Alaska by a US F-22. Last weekend, a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon was taken down by F-22s off the coast of South Carolina.

There are two main excuses for the use of missiles. First, the objects’ presence in the sky could jeopardise aviation. Second, a softer approach like taking a lenient gunshot that would have limited the damage was not possible.

“We assessed taking a gunshot yesterday in that event, as well as today, and the pilots in each situation felt that that was really unachievable because of the size, especially yesterday in the altitude and also because of the challenge to acquire it visually because it’s so small,” Gen. Glen VanHerck, the commander of NORAD and the US Northern Command, was quoted by CNN as saying on Sunday.

Speculation has been mounting. Conspiracy theorists are not the only ones to blame, though.

February 12, 2023: If Thaksin Shinawatra and Prawit Wongsuwan choose political expediency over ideologies, Thai people will be left with nothing to cling to, according to the former’s ex-cheerleader who has turned completely against the man in Dubai.

Jatuporn Prompan, in his routine Facebook live that has become a ferocious anti-Thaksin forum, was talking about a political rumour that would not end _ about the union between the Pheu Thai and Palang Pracharath parties. While proponents of the unlikely idea see a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to destructive political divide, Jatuporn insists such a marriage would betray both camps and even cement the perception that Thaksin would “do anything” in order to be able to return to Thailand.

Simply put, Jatuporn is warning that there would be anti-military and anti-Thaksin protests at the same time. The Thai politics would continue to be “messy”, he suggested.

“The Pheu Thai Party is only firm on a promise that it will never join hands with a coup-maker. That is just a tactic to leave out Prawit because when people talked about the last coup, only Prayut’s name comes to mind,” Jaturon said.

The activist also claimed that Surakiart Sathirathai, a man with plenty of ministerial decorations, might become Pheu Thai’s prime ministerial candidate to increase the party’s bargaining power with Palang Pracharath over the premiership. The much-expected potential candidate, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, did not have the clout that could match Prawit’s, Jatuporn said.

February 11, 2023: It was democracy index last week and now it’s the turn of Asia’s “power index” that the Thai government is proud of.

Thailand is ranked 10th in the Lowy Institute’s latest Asia Power Index, in which countries across the Indo-Pacific were examined for economic capability, military capability, resilience in times of pressure, economic relationships, defense networks, cultural influences and diplomatic influences. Last but not least are future resources.

Those are categories studied from a combined 133 indicators.

The point scored by Thailand (18.7/100) is a far cry from the number one (America which has 80.7/100) and number two (China with 72.5/100), but Government Spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri proudly presented the list. The others, from third to ninth, include Japan (37.2/100), India (36.3/100), Russia (31.6/100), Australia (30.9/100), Singapore (25.1/100) and Indonesia (19.4/100).

China, despite ranking second, saw a considerable decline from 74.6 in 2021, apparently because strict COVID-19 measures made “connective tissue of its relationship with its neighbours _ people exchanges, business links and cultural ties _ atrophy.”

New Zealand is ranked 13 with 16.8.

February 10, 2023: According to a politician reputed to be a good reader of Thai politics, the next government must have about 300 MPs or more.

In a “normal” time, a coalition can have one or two dozen fewer MPs and is still able to form a government. But, according to Suwat Liptapanlop, chairman of the Chart Pattana Kla Party, the post-election government should consist of at least 300 MPs to get any kind of political stability.

“In my opinion, (any alliance seeking to form) the next government should have 300 MPs or more,” Suwat said. He did not mention the Senate, but, apparently, he was suggesting that anything less, which might still constitute the House of Representatives majority, would tempt the non-elected chamber to exercise its provisional power to join the House of Representatives in selecting the prime minister. There could also be troubles later like switching of allegiance.

Suwat was non-committal on which side his party would join after the election. “We will prioritise stability and lessening of the conflicts,” he said.

February 9, 2023: Fans’ focus is on whether Manchester City will have their titles rescinded or how many points will possibly be deducted this season due to alleged breaches of financial fair-play rules. Amid the brouhaha there is another interesting question.

What about the man whose sale of the club has brought it so much success until this week’s humiliation?

Thaksin Shinawatra briefly owned Manchester City. In 2008 he sold it to the Abu Dhabi United Group and the rest is history. Due to his human rights records, corruption cases in Thailand and alleged interferences in footballing matters despite “cluelessness” about the technical and commercial aspects of the game, the club has treated him badly. In fact, the club’s website in its “history” section even chose to omit his name.

Thaksin sold the club for 200 million pounds. He made a hefty profit but the money was nothing for the obscenely-rich buyer, who would go on to spend more than 1.5 billion pounds in new signings, much to fans’ joy because the new players helped bring enormous success and turned a local football club into a global household name. That was until British footballing authorities decided this week to charge the club with unfair achievements gained through cooking the books (lying about non-existent “sponsors”) and bribing in transfer deals. Possible punishments if found guilty include expulsion from the Premier League and/or point deduction and/or seizing back trophies and/or transfer bans. Relegation or expulsion from the English top flight will automatically keep Manchester City from European competitions.

Now, Thaksin is in a peculiar situation. He could be accused of bringing shame to the club through his Middle Eastern connections or some fans would think the club should have stuck with him and save itself major embarrassment. There are also fans who feel that there has been a conspiracy against the Abu Dhabi United Group in England.

February 8, 2023: As death tolls continue to climb, a dramatic political claim has it that sanctions against Syria from the United States and European Union were preventing urgent aid from reaching those in urgent need following the devastating earthquake.

Quoted by CNN, Syria’s representative to the United Nations, Bassam Sabbagh, said in New York the sanctions were making emergency help really difficult.

“Lots of the airplanes, cargo airplanes, refuse to land on Syrian airports, because of the American and European sanctions,” he said. “So even those countries who want to send humanitarian assistance… they cannot use the airplane cargo because of the sanctions.”

Bassam insisted that search and rescue efforts were being impeded by many things including the lack of aid. “Of course the lack of equipment, the lack of capabilities in the government, it’s there, because of the situation and because of the sanctions,” he was quoted as saying.

He appealed for all UN member countries to help. Syria is war-torn. Most casualties were reported in its northwest, which, according to CNN, has been largely controlled by anti-government rebels and has to cope with severely-damaged infrastructure.

February 7, 2023: Western, Middle Eastern, Christian, Muslim, democratic, authoritarian, rich and poor countries are sending manpower, money, equipment and relief supplies to Syria and Turkey for a genuinely good cause and for what really matters.

Thoughts are with all the victims, their families and relatives, as well as with all the heroes working tirelessly doing the best they possibly can to help those trapped and other sufferers which in many cases was a race against time. Gratitude for all the donors big and small.

February 6, 2023: What contempt is bigger than saying that “I don’t rate you.”? Thailand’s oldest political party is getting that from a former arch enemy who is now “pitying” it instead.

Veteran Pheu Thai politician Chaturon Chaisang, who was always tipped in the past as a prime ministerial candidate, shared what most people believe _ that the Democrat Party will unlikely emerge from the rock bottom. He said on his Facebook that, for the first time ever, he would be campaigning in the South without bothering about the Democrats.

The contempt came with what looks like a stinging parting shot. The Democrats, Chaturon said, had done nothing over the past 20 years other than losing elections and turning losses into unjustified roles in governments, disrupting democracy in the process.

“Every time there is an election, the Democrats lose to Pheu Thai without exception, so an idea has built up in their heads that they must overthrow an elected government and/or invite military dictators to rule Thailand through a coup,” Chaturon said.

Ouch!

February 5, 2023: That Thailand jumped a few places to be ranked considerably well in the much-accepted Democracy Index is a major surprise, but not the biggest one.

A country where protesters marched for fun over the past three years complaining about its state of democracy and demanding constitutional changes, where some of them went to prison, where quite a few threw homemade missiles, lit fires, faced water cannons and rubber bullets, and where a hunger strike was reportedly staged, is above Singapore on the ranking? Either the researchers at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) were drunk or we were.

The EIU, which is closely associated with The Economist the magazine, also placed the Philippines, which last year elected the son of a former “dictator” as president, above Singapore.

Globally, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore ranked 54nd, 52th, and 70th, respectively. Malaysia and East Timor led the Asean pack, being ranked 40th and 44th respectively. Thailand was, would you believe it, 55th. Norway, “full democracy”, was ranked first. America was 30th and categorised as “flawed democracy” like Thailand.

The worst three performing countries (“authoritarian”) listed in the democracy index are Afghanistan, the last in the 167-nation list, Myanmar and North Korea.

Afghanistan, Myanmar and North Korea won’t protest the rankings, though. Singapore might.

February 4, 2023: Suspend your cliché spy knowledge acquired from movies. In real life, if a country catches a spy and his/her equipment, that nation must announce it immediately and make a loud diplomatic fuss in complete disregard for the possibility that the enemy would be alerted, have time to hide equipment or evidence of assembling activities and then change plans.

Using a balloon as a carrier of espionage tools is bold, if not stupid. (But then again, the Chinese can always say “Do you think we are that dumb?” as a smart explanation and many would likely believe them.) The alleged balloon tactic is called by US officials and western media “clumsy”. But it seems that “clumsy” label can go both ways.

Ethan Hunt and Maverick the pilot (both played by Tom Cruise) would be worried about their jobs.

February 3, 2023: A Pheu Thai Bangkok MP has started to make noises about alleged extortions of food vendors at schools run by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, giving the city governor increasing heat.

Governor Chatchad Sittipunt has failed to impress since his historic landslide election victory last year, a political triumph Pheu Thai virtually treated as its own, and a Pheu Thai MP speaking against the BMA does not bode well.

“This kind of problem had existed before Chadchart got elected,” said Jirayu Huangsap. “(But) I have spoken about it in Parliament and asked him to take action. No interest has been paid to the problem and no working team was assigned to take a look. I’m waiting to see if there will be anything more than people acting surprised.”

One school director has reportedly been suspended for allegedly extorting money from a food supplier. According to an anti-graft official quoted by the mainstream media, his agency had received claims about corruption involving student lunch programmes at many schools.

February 2, 2023: Thai Sang Thai wouldn’t mind being on the same side with the political party that was Sudarat Keyuraphan’s home for so long.

In a short talk with the media, Sudarat seemed to reveal a lot about her party’s future. Now the leader of Thai Sang Thai, Sudarat apparently viewed the Prayut-Prawit breakup with suspicion. She also bemoaned evidence that Sarng Anakot Thai still harbours substantial links with Prawit’s Palang Pracharath Party, saying it proved Thai Sang Thai and Sarng Anakot Thai were “incompatible.”

It was a strong comment that shrouds the perceived Thai Sang Thai-Sarng Anakot Thai alliance with great uncertainty. Weeks ago, both parties were a few steps away from a merger, but that looks almost totally impossible now. Key leaders of Sarng Anakot Thai have returned to Palang Pracharath, as dust is still up in the air amid frenetic defections, reunions and crossing of ideologies.

“We won’t follow suit and join Palang Pracharath,” Sudarat said. “If you hear otherwise it must be from people with bad intentions.”

Other senior Thai Sang Thai members said that if ideology was to put the party on the same side as Pheu Thai, then so be it. Pheu Thai was Sudarat’s party for a long time before conflicts with other senior Pheu Thai members forced her out.

February 1, 2023: Rumoured amounts ranged from Bt70 million to Bt100 million, and Jatuporn Prompan asked sceptics to check his prison records before starting to link him with that kind of money.

His argument is that if he is acting as a well-paid mercenary, how come he often served full prison sentences with so little leniency? In addition, he said, everyone knew he staged his own protest against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the military as a whole very recently. “Why would I do that if I was getting money from that side?” Jatuporn said.

The activist was responding to some Pheu Thai members’ suggestion that a “J” was getting between Bt70 million and Bt100 million to prevent a Pheu Thai landslide.

He deemed his indirect accusers cowards who ran when he was left to face political fire. Jatuporn insisted that he attacked Thaksin Shinawatra purely out of a broken heart, following the latter’s “ungrateful treatment” of the red shirts.

He swore he did not get any financial reward. If he did, “May all disasters befall me, may my life never prosper, and may I die a horrible death.”

 

Daily updates of local and world events by Tulsathit Taptim