11 July 2024

October 31, 2022: While the rest of the world absorbed the tragic news as it happened, South Korea’s nearest neighbour that even shared its ancestral roots has yet to comment on it or send condolences. How much do ordinary North Koreans know about it, if at all?

According to the BBC, North Korean state-run outlets have not mentioned the Itaewon crush yet, although today marks the third day since the tragedy took place. That conclusion is drawn from the silence on the websites of the North Korean party daily Rodong Sinmun, state news agency KCNA, and Uriminzokkiri, which targets South Korean audiences.

That goes against a backdrop of messages sent to South Korea by leaders from around the world and comments by newscasters throughout the globe, not to mentioned feelings expressed by world citizens on the social media.

October 30, 2022: It’s good news all around for the Move Forward Party when it comes to the capital’s latest popularity survey, with its leader the most preferred prime ministerial candidate and party ratings catching up with those of Pheu Thai.

A NIDA poll survey of 2,000 city residents gave Pita Limjaroenrat a 20.40% support. He was followed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who received 15.20%. Pheu Thai’s Paetongtarn Shinawatra was breathing down Prayut’s neck at 14.10%. An “undecided” group was remarkably fourth (12.20%).

Pheu Thai was the most popular political party, supported by 28.5% of those surveyed. Move Forward came a relatively close second at 22.45%. Palang Pracharath, whose popularity decline seems to be continuing, was a distant third at 9.50%.

The survey appears to mirror the results of the recent Bangkok gubernatorial poll which reflected strong Pheu Thai and Move Forward support and Palang Pracharath’s eroded backing in the capital.

Prayut coming second is also a blow for the government, but while some may say “This is all because of him”, others will argue that “He’s still (barely) there in spite of the others.” That he is still (barely) above Paetongtarn is a bit of a surprise, too.

October 29,2022: Cynics may see Washington’s admission of rising possibilities of dangerous election-related extremism as a scheme against Elon Musk and Donald Trump, but great tensions seem real, underlined by the ferocious attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband.

Paul Pelosi had been attacked in the early hours of Friday morning “by an assailant who acted with force, and threatened his life while demanding to see the Speaker”, it was reported. He is recovering after a surgery following the attack that left him with a fractured skull and serious arm and hand injuries.

The incident has come with just over a week to go before the US midterm elections – a moment when political tensions are expected to come to the boil with a national divide in America so deepened. Looming in the background is former president Trump, who was banned from influential Twitter but is seeing his chances of rejoining the platform rise following Musk’s official acquisition of Twitter.

Just a few hours after news of the assault, the US government distributed a bulletin to law enforcement across the nation. It warned of a “heightened threat” of domestic violent extremism against candidates and election workers driven by individuals with “ideological grievances”.

President Joe Biden said the “despicable” attack looked very political.

Also on Friday, the US Department of Justice announced that a man from Pennsylvania had pleaded guilty to making multiple phoned death threats against an unnamed congressman – who the media believed was Democrat Eric Swalwell of California. The threat maker reportedly said he was going to come to the US Capitol with a firearm.

October 28, 2022: Heads _ senior and junior _ are rolling all across the Twitter company, which has been officially acquired by one of the world’s richest men, but massive layoffs could be the least exciting thing about the influential social media platform.

Will Elon Musk let Donald Trump back on Twitter and add enormous spice to America’s midterm elections and Washington’s global policies in the process? What about other previously-banned and controversial users? Will content scrutiny be loosened to allow explosive or conspiracy claims to flourish? How much the current ecosystem of the social media, complex and fragile as it is already, will be affected if the aforementioned happens?

Twitter, while smaller than many of its social media rivals, has sometimes led the way in how the industry handled “problematic” content, particularly if the West does not like it. The platform was the first to ban Trump following the “Capitol riot.” Musk has reportedly vowed that Twitter under him would not become a “free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said with no consequences”, but he is being closely watched all the same, not least because he has proved to be a prominent and controversial Twitter user himself.

October 27, 2022: What an ex-Democrat has said might possibly explain why Parliament President Chuan Leekpai chose to go toe to toe with Thaksin Shinawatra’s lawyers over Deep South’s significant incidents in the 2000s.

Instead of letting Thaksin’s libel complaint against him expire, Chuan has decided to keep it alive and surprised many in the process.The lawsuit was filed many years ago, after Chuan gave a lecture to members of the Democrat Party on October 28t, 2012, about the situation in the four southern provinces, during which he virtually said wrong or carelessly-implemented Thaksin policies inflamed insurgency.

Ex-Democrat Tavorn Sennium, a former high-profile Cabinet member, said in a Facebook post that it was a good opportunity for Thais to learn (or be told again) that political mistakes at the highest level can make sensitive situations spiral out of hand. Chuan is an ex-prime minister, ex-Democrat leader and ex-lawyer, so what he will say in court can unsettle many people.

The Krue Se and Tak Bai incidents were a big dent of Thaksin’s administration. Retelling them or drawing public and international attention to them now can make Pheu Thai, the party deeply associated with Thaksin, unhappy, especially during these crucial times.

October 26, 2022: The possible showdown between Parliament President Chuan Leekpai and lawyers representing Thaksin Shinawatra has to do with problems in the Deep South, not drug-related ones, but it might lead to reincarnation of one of the most famous political quotes of all time.

In early 2000s, when he was prime minister and questioned internationally about his “War on drugs” because of its high death toll that critics said might have included extrajudicial killings of many people and probably some innocent ones, Thaksin shrugged it off by declaring that “the UN is not my father.”

Mind you, Thaksin and nationalism were not that far apart during his days, and western-style democracy often clashed with his human rights records. Only after his ouster by a coup did he and conventional democracy get closer to each other.

The UN remark stuck with him for quite some time, although he was later reported to have admitted that he was possibly overreacting. Whether he was sincerely sorry or making an excuse, post-Thaksin situations in Thailand meant that all is forgiven now including the UN comment.

The Krue Se and Tak Bai incidents, the source of his long-running and re-emerging libel problems with Chuan, were not directly attributable to the UN jibe, but if a trial takes place, the quote may come out. Chuan was attacking Thaksin’s human rights attitude to begin with.

October 25, 2022: People tend to do well when the odds are stacked against them. That is probably the brightest side in the chaotic ascension of the new UK prime minister.

Rishi Sunak is a former finance minister, which is another bright side as he hopefully should have a better, more cautious idea than Liz Truss’ on how to manage an economy facing a massive perfect storm with a very cold winter looming. Problem is he did not inherit just that.

He will have to navigate economic death traps while leading a political party that has spent the past few years tearing itself apart with spectacular factionalism and split loyalties (Picture Thailand’s Democrat Party and multiply its problems by two). The Conservative Party of 2022 is next to ungovernable. Just ask Boris Johnson and Truss.

The new Conservative leader does not have to look very far back for bad signs. Just weeks ago, he was beaten comprehensively by the Truss camp, who now is unlikely to say in unison: “We were wrong. Let’s throw full support behind Rishi Sunak.”

In his failed leadership bid weeks ago, Sunak had criticized Truss’ plans to slash taxes and fund day-to-day spending through jaw-dropping borrowing, saying it would court a disaster. His own outlined plan, however, was not enough to prevent Truss’ rise to power.

Now, he is considered a “safer pair of hands” than Truss and his “successful” economic management during the COVID-19 pandemic through carefully-crafted government spending programmes is being loudly praised (which just made the question why they had chosen Truss over him more glaring).

October 24, 2022: “Society is sick”, an activist who got punched in public said after a politician suffered a mini headlock scare in public.

Srisuwan Janya warned that society could become sicker if the “copycat” trend was allowed to continue. With Move Forward and Progressive Movement politicians advocating major ideological changes and some of their supporters and opponents being extremists, Srisuwan’s warning has to be taken seriously.

“People can disagree but they must do so in a civilised manner,” Srisuwan said in an online post. It was after someone described as “mentally ill” stole up behind a sitting Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit at a book fair, performed a headlock on the politician and also caused a bomb scare. The attacker was swiftly overpowered by guards and onlookers.

The incident came hot on the heels of Srisuwan being ambushed and punched in public for trying to take legal action against a comedian whose anti-government stand and the manner in which he expressed it Thanathorn must have liked.

October 23, 2022: Why, as England searches for a new leader amid its most ominous economic signs in modern times, do the BBC and CNN downplay it and choose to highlight the predictable development regarding China’s Xi Jinping?

The answer is that the “predictable” will have a lot more impact on world events whereas the unpredictability in England will remain unpredictable for weeks or even months. Whoever replaces Liz Truss may follow her out in a hurry, triggering a new Conservative leadership search and so on. “Breaking news” will keep coming out of England and there is plenty of time to highlight it.

And even if the new UK leader outlasts the lettuce, he or she will be too preoccupied with domestic problems. That will add to the fact that even if he or she is internationally aggressive, England is not what it used to be, or an empire where the sun never set.

A stable Xi has always looked like a formality, but that means he will be a stable pain in the neck of the West. More so if his status rises to the point where it’s illegal to try to put him away.

October 22, 2022: England’s Conservative Party cannot afford to allow the revolving-door leadership situation to continue, and that is probably why the next British prime minister should last longer than Liz Truss.

Boris Johnson (who might have thought he had made it) is getting sucked back into the turmoil. He and his former finance minister Rishi Sunak were leading the potential contenders to replace Truss, along with candidates canvassing support to become Conservative Party leader in a fast-tracked contest.

After Truss quit on Thursday, ending her record-breaking six weeks in power, candidates tipped more or less to replace her are looking like front-line soldiers leaving their base for a major and inescapable enemy bombardment. But they are all part of the Conservative Party’s last hope to  reset its ailing fortunes.

With the Conservatives all but facing a wipe out in the next national election (think of Palang Pracharath and multiply its problem by two), the race is on to choose the fifth British premier in six years and that should be concluded in just a few days. The Conservative trouble is good news for the winner, who cannot afford to be another one defeated by the lettuce or the party can sink beyond rock bottom.

October 21, 2022: Debate on whether two telecom giants should merge with each other has confirmed that telecom interests and politics are like oil and water which shall never mix.

That’s why the country created the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission in the first place. The idea was to keep politicians as far away from policies affecting telecom interests as possible.

The term “conflict of interest” was heard a lot during the time of ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who everyone knew had strong links with one telecom firm no matter how hard he tried to “detach” himself from his lucrative empire. On the one hand, he led a government required to make services cheap and available to all Thais, not just wealthy people who could afford mobile phones and internet devices. On the other hand, such requirements would make telecom entrepreneurs suffer, including those he deeply knew if not his business self.

Thaksin became politically powerful just before the NBTC came into existence against all odds. How much trouble ensued does not need to be said. Through all the turmoil, a lot of people did not understand why Thaksin was so much opposed despite his apparently good application of business acumen in high-level politics.

One explanation is apparently getting clearer. The NBTC has made another “controversial” decision affecting customers and business bigwigs. Imagine how much more controversial and troublesome it would be had the man in Dubai remained the prime minister.

Make no mistake, problems did not end with Thaksin’s ouster. Telecom interests continue to intertwine with political and customer benefits.

October 20, 2022: Declaration of a firm, unchangeable stand on Article 112 has all but guaranteed that the Bhumjaithai Party will be on the opposite side of the current opposition bloc after the next election.

The party’s clear-cut announcement that it would never touch Article 112 and “never understand those who will” means the party and Move Forward will go separate ways after the poll. The declaration has also come amid the government party’s simmering conflict with another key opposition party, Pheu Thai, which has been attacking Bhumjaithai’s cannabis policy and taunting its Northeast election prospects.

A firm Article 112 stand could also put Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul at the forefront of the present ideological divide, as conventional politicians have not been as outspoken on the subject. Today, Anutin spoke at length in support of Article 112 and promised that his party “will do everything within our power”to resist efforts to change the article.

October 19, 2022: Democracy is respect for every man’s right to think,  even if the thinking is different from your ideas, according to the man who punched activist Srisuwan Janya on Tuesday.

Veerawich Rungruangsiriphol joined an anti-government protest two years ago during which he said Thailand was lacking democracy that respects all humanity and “accepts different opinions.” He now said Srisuwan, who does not hit anyone, “has gone too far.”

That past statement has been dug up and gone viral.

October 18, 2022: Thirty minutes and World War III will be over, according to a man whose opinions have been taunted, controversial but should never be ignored.

Elon Musk’s stand on technology and conventional wealth can hardly be disputed for obvious reasons, and he has joined other world leaders and worried military experts in saying that the risk of a nuclear war has never been this high.

The Tesla boss said Russia has the ability to destroy America and Europe utterly with nuclear missiles in less than 30 minutes and vice versa. In other words, the world we see in the Mad Max movies is one or a few wrong moves away at the highest level.

In a tweet, he said a “surprising” number of people did not know how quick and annihilative a nuclear war would be, and “only mad” atomic missile owners would decide to use them. However, he added: “It’s also mad to be in this situation [to begin with]”.

Earlier, he said he was up all night worried about the Ukraine situation and thinking of a way to end it. That was before US President Joe Biden warned about an Armageddon. Musk’s ideas on solving the Ukraine conflict include eventually and possibly ceding certain Ukrainian territories to Russia, which subjects him to worldwide mockery.

In the latest tweet, he said “We are now at the highest risk in 60 years”, and that he wished humanity would someday “stop pointing nukes at itself that would destroy almost all life on earth.”

October 17, 2022: It now looks all but certain that if power changes hands after the general election, Thailand’s policy regarding cannabis will, too, be upended.

The opposition-led Pheu Thai will seek to take Bhumjaithai to task for allegedly using misleading information on the pros and cons of cannabis for political gains in violation of laws governing political parties. Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew insisted that it was a grave offence punishable by party dissolution.

The rivalry between Pheu Thai and Bhumjaithai has been rising fast, against a backdrop of conflicts over fielding or selecting of northeastern election candidates in certain areas and the climbing political status of Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul, now considered a threat to Paetongtarn Shinawatra.

Cholnan said the opposition bloc’s final decision on Bhumjaithai will be clear on November 1. As of now, he said, Pheu Thai believes the rival party has been using misleading information in order to get or enhance administrative powers. If it has been proved that Bhumjaithai intentionally told lies and those lies helped the party win powers, the party can be dissolved, he said.

Such a complaint against Bhumjaithai is unlikely to lead to party dissolution, but it will close the doors on various cannabis policies in the future if Pheu Thai becomes the government.

October 16, 2022: One bad thing about a conventional democratic system is that many times voters have to pick the lesser evil, and this problem is particularly becoming more and more glaring in the United States, according to many experts.

They said it in a detailed survey which has been published in a CNN opinion piece that followed a damning poll by the Quinnipiac University. In that recent poll, both Democrats and Republicans expressed overwhelming fears about the state of American democracy. According to the shocking findings, 69% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans think the nation’s democracy is on the brink of collapse. And the figure for independents is also ominous at 66%.

Many “experts” were asked how to fix it. Different wordings may have been used, and priorities may not have been the same, but the unspoken unison is that the current overriding and fundamental system is not working. The urge to win at all costs has overshadowed man’s good side, resulting in growing mistrust of one another, they say.

One expert says Americans’ trust in the system is now broken. Another compares the system to a piñata, a decorated figure of an animal stuffed with toys and sweets that is suspended from a height and broken open by blindfolded children at a party. “If you lower a piñata into a chaotic children’s birthday party, not only will you see some of the most astonishingly rapacious behavior imaginable, someone will almost certainly end up bleeding.”

Another expert yet directly calls on America to break “the deadly cycle of hyper-partisan polarization that threatens democracy”. He said the country should have a system that creates and supports more viable political parties, simply by allowing parties to cross-endorse candidates.

One psychologist, voicing arguably the most interesting opinion, suggested conflicts and possible violence are something that wait to happen in cutthroat politics, particularly in the two-party system. He said a psychology study in 1954 may be the answer.

That study was meant to find out how hostilities arose. In it, two groups of boys arrived on separate buses and camped in different areas. One group decided to call themselves the Eagles; the other, the Rattlers. When the groups met, they fell into conflict. First, there was verbal sparring and then physical confrontation.

Then those conducting the experiment took a U-turn. No more campfire debate or separation by groups or uniforms. Boys, some of them former rivals, were brought together, made to stay together, and given common problems to solve. The water supply was intentionally jammed, so if the boys wanted water, they would have to work together to fix it. Guess what, the kids collaborated on several problems. The hostilities subsided, and they stopped calling each other names. Several even asked if they could ride home together on the same bus.

So, will multiple parties be a solution, or will it just create multiple camps instead of two?

October 15, 2022: Journalism can be creative sometimes, as a UK tabloid has shown amid England’s perfect storm combining political turmoil and potentially disastrous economic threats.

Daily Star has put a newly-bought lettuce on live feed and if it goes bad before new UK Prime Minister Liz Truss is out of office, at least critics who said her premiership had a shelf-life of the vegetable would be wrong.

She has faced a barrage of criticism just weeks into the highest office. (Some call it the shortest political honeymoon in history.) Proposed budgets have been widely decried, tax-cutting announcements have been questioned and ridiculed and even her own MPs publicly have frowned upon her. A key economic head has rolled. The International Monetary Fund has said it was monitoring England and her policies closely. She looked forlorn at times in public.

Now, The Economist magazine, a well-known publication with a circulation of 1.3 million, has become the latest voice to unleash an extraordinary criticism and suggested the countdown toward an early demise had begun.

The magazine openly compared Truss’ days at the top to lettuce’s shelf-life. That comparison has caught fire, with the Daily Star’s “lettuce cam” starting almost immediately.

October 14, 2022: There’s little use in debating tongue-in-cheek “security guards” comments on an entertainment stage by someone who doesn’t possess atomic missile launch codes, especially when the man who does is talking possible Armageddon.

US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that the nuclear risk of mankind is now at the highest level since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. That ominous US warning came as Russian officials talk about the possibility of using nuclear weapons tactics after reportedly-huge setbacks in Ukraine.

The Russians “are not kidding”, said Biden. “…We haven’t faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the missile crisis in Cuba”.

The brief but horrifying deployment confrontation during the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union is often considered the closest the world got to a full-scale nuclear war.

After some criticism, Biden seems to have softened his meaning a little bit, saying that threatening to do something one isn’t actually planning to do is “irresponsible.” To be fair to the Russians, they can call his Armageddon remark irresponsible, too.

October 13, 2022: Sarng Anakot Thai’s potential prime ministerial candidate Somkid Jatusripitak has addressed two things that are unlikely to happen.

On a speculated merger between the Sarng Anakot Thai Party and Sudarat Keyuraphan’s Thai Sang Thai Party, he politely said the former could work with anyone if the goal was to “reunify” Thailand, but stressed that it would not make much sense if a merger was only meant to “boost the numbers”and hence increase the bargaining power.

“If politicians only think of merger as a means to gain political powers, they’d better stay away from politics, because that kind of thinking has been threatening to tear the country apart,” he said. “What really matters is that parties wanting to merge must share similar development policies, so a merger will enable them to try to push for them together.”

It was a sound statement, but the strongest reason that a Sarng Anakot Thai-Thai Sang Thai merger is unlikely to happen has to do with clashing ambitions. Both Somkid and Sudarat want to take a shot at the prime ministerial post, and a merger would mean one of them would need to be, in team sports terms, a “bench-warmer.”

However, Somkid reiterated that he was not one to decide with whom Sarng Anakot Thai should merge. He has just become a high-profile member who is being elevated to become party chairman, so he does not have the final say on major party developments, Somkid said.

Asked “what side” his party would be on after the next general election, Somkid launched into a major lecture. Here’s the gist:

“The reason why I decided to come back to politics and join Sang Anakot Thai was because polarization was destroying our country,”he said. “After more than a decade of political divide, what do you think has improved in Thailand and what benefits man on the street has received? We really need to leave all the divisions behind because they have been anything but constructive.”

This is a dream shared by practically everyone in Thailand, but it has never come true and will never do in the near future.

October 12, 2022: Who owns the frequencies? This very question is at the core of the current controversy regarding the True-DTAC merger plan and the market status of Advance Info Services (AIS). In fact, the question is practically behind every telecom controversy.

The answer is “the Thai public”, which is why constitutional rules have, seemingly at least, sought to ensure that any development in the telecom industry must serve the utmost interests of the Thai people who are too poor to put satellites in the sky and elect sophisticated and expensive antennas on land all across the country.

Simple as they are, the question and the answer are not easy to deal with in the real world. What should have been has been clashing badly with what really happens. Since telecom frequencies are national resources, all Thais must benefit from them, not enslaved by high fees and the dictation given out by whoever controls the political power. Truth is that all Thais have been enslaved by costly services, and politics has been controlling who gets what in the business.

In other words, the “owner” is too poor to really own it, and the companies that actually own it do not really care about the “national resources” principle, although they sometimes invoke it for their own vested interests.

Through all this, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, constitutionally set up to ensure the “national resources” principle, is in the middle of the never-ending tug of war. Sometimes the commissioners swing toward the general public. Sometimes they lean closer to the powers-that-be. Many times they have tried their best but their best is never good enough, torn between “It belongs to the people!” and “Who else would have invested so much money?”. Many times political influences are too much to resist. Many times the commissioners are simply powerless.

Through all this, feel-good advertisement keeps coming out, and “the people must benefit” rhetoric dominates headlines once in a while, especially during bidding wars among the firms. Through all this _ and it doesn’t matter who will merge with whom _ don’t forget to pay the bills or they will cut your internet.

October 11, 2022: The Palang Pracharath Party keeps going off track and shedding popularity. The Democrat Party still gets stuck at rock bottom. Great uncertainties surround Prayut Chan-o-cha.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that the name of Anutin Charnvirakul, leader of the Bhumjaithai Party, has been mentioned with increasing significance. Many elements in the Pheu Thai Party have in fact begun to view him as the main enemy on par with Prayut.

Talking to the media today, Anutin asked Pheu Thai key strategist Chalerm Yoobamrung to “wait and see”. Chalerm had said that Bhumjaithai would get to be the leader of the opposition bloc at best after the next general election. Anutin responded that he would beg to differ.

Pheu Thai regards Bhumjaithai as the most serious threat in certain northeastern constituencies, and Chalerm was the latest Pheu Thai member to incidentally air that concern.

Anutin said creating divisiveness would soon be an outdated way to play politics. He expressed confidence that his party would be in the next government. The Bhumjaithai leader, however, stopped short of saying by whom that government would be led.

This is his key message to Chalerm: “There are still some six months to go. Wait and see.”

Asked why Pheu Thai comments seem to target his party lately, Anutin smiled. “What does that tell you?” he replied.

October 10, 2022: There’s a difference between “It was totally wrong and I’m so sorry it hurt you” and “I’m so sorry what I did hurt you.”

The former was an unequivocal admission of poor judgement and wholehearted in the “sorry” department. It did not try to defend the action.

The latter suggested “I feel very bad about it but I might do it again if I had to.”

Which one is it regarding CNN’s statement of deep regret?  You be the judge. The difference may be subtle, but the subtlety can be huge all the same.

CNN International, following a major uproar, has issued a statement expressing deep regret for any distress or offence its report on the mass shooting in Nong Bua Lam Phu on Thursday has caused and for any inconvenience they may have caused to the police at such a distressing time for Thailand.

The statement, issued by Mike McCarthy, executive vice president and general manager of CNN International, said that the CNN news team sought permission from health officials present to enter the child care centre.

Had the team understood that the health officials were not authorised to grant such permission, they would not have entered. “It was never our intention to contravene any rules,” according to the statement.

The statement explained that the CNN team entered the compound of the child care centre through the open gate, while other reporters were already present, and that the compound was not cordoned off with police tape, which was later put up, forcing them to climb over the gate after they spent about 15 minutes inside.

“Our team entered the building in good faith to gain a fuller impression of what transpired and to humanise the scale of the tragedy for the audience,” said the statement, adding that CNN had ceased broadcasting the report and has removed the offending video from its website.

One thing is certain: No law was broken regarding the entry as well as the entire CNN coverage and its broadcast.

The word “ethics” was born  because of that.  We sometimes see perfectly-legal things that are not quite ethical.

October 9, 2022: Why CNN did it was seemingly fleeting or tantalizing in the last paragraph of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand’s statement condemning the US-based global network’s coverage of the Nong Bua Lamphu tragedy.

In that paragraph of the strongly-worded statement, the FCCT would like to ask CNN a simple question: Would one of their crews have behaved in the same way at a serious crime scene in the United States?

The answer would likely be No. A possible reason behind that answer is that Thailand is a small country, where corruption and inferiority complex prevail and ethical standards are applied against it when bigger, more powerful nations see fit.

CNN apparently trespassed on the Nong Bua Lamphu tragic scene despite clear-cut police boundaries, and there have been charges that the content of its coverage amplified grief in the neighbourhood.

Condemnation directed at CNN is coming left and right, even from other US or western outlets, not least because the network was often a moral preacher. It’s easy to blame just the crew and keep the ethical integrity of the organization intact, but truth is that the coverage was played up by the CNN newsroom, which apparently approved the heartbreaking and controversial content, and seen all over the world.

To say that Thai officials allowed the entry is all but lame. The issue is not what Thai officials do; it’s what CNN thinks.

October 8, 2022: Thai politics has reached a point where the powers-that-be could stage protests against the powers-that-be so that the powers-that-be can find pretexts to maintain the power of the powers-that-be, according to an activist opposed to the powers-that-be.

In short, street violence could be used to justify another coup, said Worachai Hema, former MP of the Pheu Thai Party and a senior red-shirted member. He said the results of recent Bangkok elections and popularity polls overwhelmingly favouring Paetongtarn Shinawatra have shocked many people to their cores.

“A lot of people don’t want the general election to happen because they justifiably fear that they are going to lose,” he said. “Our strong point is people’s power whereas their strong point is military power. What we must do is never create conditions that they are waiting for because such conditions can play into their hands.”

October 7, 2022: Firearms are carried around and unleashed in public places not because they are easy to find or buy, but because offenders often get away through police corruption, flexing of influential muscles and a justice process weakened by the former two.

In short, laws are not a problem, but their application is. It’s not the same as, say, in America where guns are easy to legally acquire and many mass shootings involved legitimate firearms.

Both countries can have one thing ominously in common, though. Following every tragic mass shooting, everyone talks about loopholes and measures, only for the rhetoric to subside and become meaningless in a hurry. With random shootings threatening to become more frequent in Thailand, the unwanted characteristic of post-violence useless talking is as dangerous as guns themselves.

October 6, 2022: The Thai police have pleaded with social media users to never share graphic content of the major tragedy in Nong Bua Lamphu.

People are grieving and suffering and sharing explicit, no-holds-barred content about their losses would only aggravate their sadness and pain, the Police Department said.

October 5, 2022: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha used a combined 11 words to answer three very important questions. Not surprising, though.

What’s going on regarding what looks like an imminent Cabinet reshuffle? “Nothing’s happening,” he said to reporters after his first chairing of Cabinet meeting in weeks.

Have you talked to Democrat leader Jurin Laksanawisit, who apparently has something in mind concerning his party’s quota? “We’ll talk about it shortly,” the prime minister said.

How does it feel to be back? “As good as before.”

Are you and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan sulking at each other? No answer. Prayut just kept walking.

To be fair to him, that last question came after he had told reporters that he and some Cabinet members planned to visit Prawit who called in sick due to a mild fever.

October 4, 2022: Ukraine’s outgoing ambassador to Germany Andrij Melnyk’s “very diplomatic reply” to the idea of one of the richest men in the world on how his country’s war with Russia should end is all over the internet.

It’s a strong expletive, which footballers use a lot when they are not satisfied with refereeing decisions. (It’s a four-letter word followed by “off”) More polite is Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, but even so, Tesla boss Elon Musk must be thinking he’d better stick with problems with Twitter.

Musk had asked his 107.7m followers to vote on his idea that included ceding Ukrainian territory to Russia. Let the occupied regions of Ukraine vote, he proposed. Russia must leave if it’s the majority wish of people in those areas, the man proposed.

In response Zelensky posted his own poll asking users if they liked the world’s richest person more when he supported Ukraine. Musk’s idea followed what the West called “sham” referendums regarding Russian control of the regions.

October 3, 2022: Their perceived showdown must have sent many googling the term “metaverse”, which will certainly have more influences on human lives but is not likely to change the ultimate rich-poor status quo.

To cut a long story short, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook king Mark Zuckerberg do not agree on how close we are to diving head-on into cyberspace activities that used to be carried out or are being carried out mostly in real life. Such activities include things like banking, games, public debate, or even building houses and making friends. Well, have you seen movies in which old or “ugly” people stay home and let loose their young and beautiful “avatars” in simulation cities? That’s what we are talking about if “metaverse” develops to a certain point. Many realities would be supplanted.

Zuckerberg, citing some overwhelming or emerging online activities, virtually stated that, in terms of human resources, we must be prepared to go all-in and as soon as possible. Cook said not so fast. Their public opinions have been highlighted over the past few days as a clash of the titans.

But while the metaverse can change many things, it will keep real-world wealth strictly in the hands of “visionary” businessmen who manage to come up with apps or computer programmes to provide effective and omnipresent cyberspace activities to replace current or old-fashioned ones.

In other words, while you go on scoring last-minute goals at football finals and becoming rich and famous in the alternative “reality”, some people would be laughing all the way to the real banks.

October 2, 2022: More than 85% of 1,159 Thais surveyed after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha got off the eight-year tenure hook says Thailand must now concentrate on being a good and economically successful APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) host in November.

Some 80% wants the Constitutional Court’s verdict on Prayut to be respected. Nearly 74% wants him to return “immediately” to work.

Nearly 36% wants the government to “continue working” (They do not want a House dissolution). Those wanting an immediate House dissolution and post-APEC House dissolution are neck and neck at 28.4% and 28% respectively.

Prayut was overwhelmingly favored as the government side’s prime ministerial candidate, scoring 22.5%. He was followed, not very closely, by Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul who got 12.5%. Democrat leader Jurin Laksanawisit received 3.5% support, underlining the party’s statically low approval rating.

Not being an MP or party leader, Paetongtarn Shinawatra was the most favoured prime ministerial candidate on the opposition side, even overshadowing Move Forward leader and MP Pita Limjaroenrat at 19.2% against 11.4%. Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew is surprisingly low at 2.8%.

One to watch is Somkid Jatusripitak who received slightly over 10% support despite his relatively-low political profile lately and not being a party leader.

October 1, 2022: Thaksin Shinawatra’s political survival following a Constitutional Court ruling in 2001 taught one side of the ideological divide the virtue of patience. Prayut Chan-o-cha’s escape this week should do the same to the other.

The court is always targeted one way or the other. Had it gone the other way yesterday, Prayut’s supporters would have slammed the judges like Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Pita Limjaroenrat are doing now. If Thaksin had not been declared “not guilty” more than two decades ago, his fans would have bashed the court to pieces.

Thaksin was off the hook and the rest was history. Turmoil often went back to his questionable integrity and politics ever since has been plagued with allegations that Thailand’s judges are part of a conspiracy and, on the other hand, disrespect for the highest court’s verdicts are what causes trouble.

The situation is bad on many counts. It invokes extreme measures like coups and bloody uprisings in which many innocents died. It drags every corruption scandal into politics, making campaigns against graft absolutely hard. It politicizes social issues like wife/girlfriend beating or sexual assault/harassment. It deepens rifts in the Thai society every time a ruling is issued.

People doubting the “conspiracy theory” are asking why Thaksin, if he was the one to eliminate, survived the court in 2001 in spite of fairly-good evidence, and why late Sanan Kachornprasart, a very influential power broker on the other side, was found guilty just shortly earlier regarding a “false” report of debt and thus was finished politically. Did that mean the court back then was doing one half of politics a strong favour?

Thais have been taught the hard way, time and time again, what can happen when politics gets too close to “justice” and people feeling hard done by decide to cut corners. Whether the lessons can be truly learnt may be the biggest question in the country’s desperate search for a genuine political peace.

 

 

 

Daily updates of local and international events by Tulsathit Taptim