21 May 2024

March 31, 2022: Puzzling politics is materializing in America, with a former president asking Russia to help dig up dirt on a sitting president.

After virtually calling Vladimir Putin a genius for an invasion that arguably gives America a taste of its own moral medicine, Donald Trump has apparently gone a step further by saying the Russian leader should release potentially damaging information about Hunter Biden, who is Joe Biden’s son.

Trump virtually said that the Russian leader might be willing to explain why in 2014 Russian businesswoman Elena Baturina, the wife of the deceased former mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, made a $3.5 million payment to a firm Trump supporters have claimed is associated with Hunter Biden.

The White House is mad, of course. The pro-Biden media in America and beyond are going ballistic.

“What kind of American, let alone an ex-president, thinks that this is the right time to enter into a scheme with Vladimir Putin and brag about his connections to Vladimir Putin?” said Kate Bedingfield, a White House spokesperson, when asked by reporters. “There is only one, and it’s Donald Trump.”

“This may be Trump’s most twisted appeal to Putin yet,” said a CNN headline. The article charged that the former president, who could run for the White House again as he is still commanding considerable support in America, was putting personal interests before the nation’s.

March 30, 2022: The newly-announced revocation of rights to own over 2,111 rai of forest land in Ratchaburi could be just the beginning of fresh legal troubles of Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s family as well as new political problems for the man himself.

The Land Department’s action is still subjected to appeals, but it also paves the way for application of the criminal law, and bearing the brunt could be Somporn Juangroongruangkit, who is Thanathorn’s mother and who owns the majority of the controversial land.

Whereas Somporn stands to lose a good part of her assets, Thanathorn faces new political storms. The politician owns 82 rai in the area, and certain reports identified them as among those ownership rights of which were revoked. His sister Chanaphan Juangroongruangkit reportedly has 132 rai in the area to defend.

The Juangroongruangkits, known to be a very wealthy family, seemed recently safe from criminal law action after investigators ruled that their Nor Sor 3 Kor were proper ownership documents. However, the Royal Forest Department became vocal against that kind of ruling, reasoning that checks of forest boundaries were in fact still on-going.

March 29, 2022: An official conclusion can be announced over the next few days on whether the mother of Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit had illegally acquired parts of forest land in Ratchaburi.

The prolonged case, which emerged over a year ago, will likely become politically explosive, not least because Thanathorn is always perceived as a politician campaigning for social and legal equality and the man himself has his own plots to defend in the same province.

According to Deputy Interior Minister Niphon Boonyamanee, the Royal Forest Department and the Land Development have submitted related information regarding the controversial acquisition of land in Ratchaburi by Somporn Juangroongruangkit to the Interior Ministry, which is expected to make a conclusive announcement on the case within a few days.

Niphon, when asked if action to be taken involved revocation of land ownership, said “the government will have to do what it must” in accordance with information it receives.

March 28, 2022: The Ukrainian president is increasingly frustrated, satirical and apparently more open to options that western strategists may not like.

Volodymyr Zelensky is basically asking if just a small fraction of western arms “collecting dust” where they are kept would be of better use if handed over to his country.

He is practically asking: What are you so afraid of?

Coincidentally perhaps, his attitude toward NATO seems to have changed a little bit. While tough conditions like a referendum are being laid down, he is reportedly open for talks on the possibility of establishing a “neutral zone” in his country. Details are yet to emerge, but it might turn out to be a baby step toward ending the war because Ukraine leaning toward the West was what made Russia belligerently paranoid in the first place. Ukraine being strictly neutral, however, can be a mammoth diplomatic issue.

As of now, Ukraine’s resistance is reportedly holding out as good as it can get, but the country needs more weapons, and urgently. Several nations have promised to send anti-armor and anti-aircraft missiles as well as small arms but Zelensky insisted Kyiv needed tanks, planes and anti-ship systems.

“That is what our partners have, that is what is just gathering dust there. This is all for not only the freedom of Ukraine, but for the freedom of Europe,” he said in a late night video address on Saturday.

Ukraine needed just 1% of NATO’s aircraft and 1% of its tanks and would not ask for more, he said.

“We’ve already been waiting 31 days. Who is in charge of the Euro-Atlantic community? Is it really still Moscow, because of intimidation?” he said.

March 27, 2022: A recent “war criminal” remark by the US president against Vladimir Putin may have marked a point of no return for their relationship, but already-high tension has shot up way further after the former said of the latter this weekend: “For God’s sake, this man can’t remain in power.”

That all but pushed a global panic button, prompting the White House to rush to explain Joe Biden’s exact stance. The American president, it was said, was being emotional and sympathetic towards Ukraine rather than giving a threat that he would lead attempts to dislodge Putin from power.

Biden made the “For God’s sake” remark during a speech in Poland’s capital Warsaw. The White House later said Biden wasn’t calling for regime change, but making the point Putin can’t be allowed to exercise power over neighbours. The quick White House move was understandable. In a strong response to Biden’s comment, the Kremlin said it wasn’t for Biden to decide who governs Russia, while the pro-West countries and media were applauding and alarmists were seeing more negatives than positives.

The Ukraine war is apparently the biggest flexing of non-American military power since the Cold War, causing rampant reviews of the “world order”, and an Al Jazeera headline summed it up quite well: “World is united on Ukraine but divided on America”.

To date, the only use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict occurred in 1945 with the American atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Everyone hopes it stays that way.

March 26, 2022: Runners of the two ideological camps will be out to get not just their rivals, but also those on the same side of the great national divide, according watchers of the city governor election.

Well-known celebrity activist, academic and media veteran Seri Wongmontha said it could come to a point where ideologically-leaning voters have to cast ballots for those expected the most to win, not the candidates they prefer the most.

Seri, whose political ideology is no secret himself, actually urged voters sharing his belief that might require them to consider each candidate’s chances before marking their ballots.

Seri’s opinion can be attacked as improperly bringing ideological conflicts into a local election that seeks to find a technically capable person to run technically-complex Bangkok. It does not matter much what he thinks, though, as the Bangkok race is always significantly influenced by what voters think in the grand national scheme of things. This kind of thinking may also affect “independent” candidates like Chadchart Sittipunt.

March 25, 2022: An updated and extensive wish list of additional military assistance the Ukrainians want from the US government is inevitably intensifying a showdown that alarmists don’t want to see.

The need for western arms in the past several days has grown to include hundreds more anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles than previously requested, according to a document provided to CNN which published what is now wanted.

According to CNN, the Zelensky government has reportedly submitted similar lists in recent weeks but a recent request provided to US lawmakers “appears to reflect a growing need for American-made Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and Javelin anti-tank missiles — with Ukraine saying it urgently needs 500 of each, daily.”

The new list comes as the Ukrainians have claimed they face potential weapons shortages while the Russians have appeared increasingly vociferous about western assistance and on occasions have threatened to sabotage shipment.

CNN reported that, by March 7, the US and other NATO members had sent about 17,000 anti-tank missiles and 2,000 anti-aircraft missiles into Ukraine. Since then, NATO countries, including the US, have kept the pipeline of weapons and equipment flowing.

March 24, 2022: More than half of daily COVID-19 deaths reported in Thailand today were the people who did not receive a single shot of vaccine, the government says.

Of the 82 people reported dead, 46 were those who did not even get the first dose. Six others were infected shortly after the first shot. More worrisome in the government’s death report are the cases of 16 others who had received two shots, and another six who died despite getting booster shots very recently, meaning there was arguably too little time for the third shot to help.

The majority of all deaths had to do with people who were old and with severe health conditions or risks.

The government says only nearly 33% of Thais have received the third shot. The number of Thais who have got the first shot is now a few millions shy of 60 million.

March 23, 2022: With Ukraine increasingly appearing to be a stage for a long drawn-out armed conflict, Russia is getting more vague on the use of nuclear weapons.

As Ukrainian forces have reportedly been trying in the last few days to regain territory from the Russians, Vladimir Putin’s chief spokesman has, according to CNN, “repeatedly refused to rule out” nuclear, especially if Moscow saw an “existential threat”.

Dmitry Peskov was speaking to CNN in an interview. He reportedly conceded his country had yet to achieve its key goal in Ukraine. When asked under what conditions Putin would use Russia’s nuclear capability, Peskov replied, “if it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be.”

Asked what Putin thought he had achieved in Ukraine so far, Peskov answered: “Well, first of all, not yet. He hasn’t achieved yet.”

The goals include “getting rid of the military potential of Ukraine”; ensuring that Ukraine is a “neutral country”; eliminating “nationalist battalions”; making Ukraine accept that Crimea — annexed by Russia in 2014 — is part of Russia and that the breakaway statelets of Luhansk and Donetsk “are already independent states.”

In its report, CNN didn’t clarify what possibly constitutes an “existential threat”.

March 22, 2022: Rule relaxation, bigger crowds, mass travels and abundant activities all over Thailand during the traditional new year period next month could combine to deliver the biggest wave of the coronavirus infections in months, a high-ranking health official has cautioned.

Prof Doc Prasit Watanapa, dean of the Siriraj Hospital’s Faculty of Medicine, said severity of COVID-19 has apparently decreased in proportion with affected parties’ vaccination records, with most serious cases involving people who have not been inoculated, or have received just one shot, or who have not got booster doses. But he warned that Omicron shall never be underestimated, especially with Songkran approaching.

“To make Songkran a genuine occasion for happiness, Thais should seek proper vaccination,” he said.

The “guards” must be strictly up during Songkran, he insisted. “Consider masks to be a vital part of your dresses and don’t forget to wash your hands frequently,” he said. “We are nearing the riskiest time of the year. Although the difference now is the vaccines, Omicron is very highly transmissible.”

March 21, 2022: Former core members of the Prayut government who have set up a new political party and refused to make the prime minister its preferred choice of next leader are still elusive regarding its candidate for the top job.

Sarng Anakot Thai, however, has never denied speculation that former deputy prime minister Somkid Jatusripitak will be its candidate. That has remained unchanged today when, in an interview, party founder Sonthirat Sonthijirawong said only that “time will tell” and the party “still has time.”

Sonthirat spelled out “qualifications” that the party’s prime ministerial candidate must have, but they were conventional specs every other political party is publicly demanding _ having good experiences, having good abilities to solve problems and having a clean image.

Party structure and “new personnel” will be clear to the public in April, Sonthirat promised.

Asked what is the “selling point” of Sarng Anakot Thai, he said: “We have a strong economic expertise”. Again, that’s what every party says. He added that Sarng Anakot Thai wants to present itself as an alternative for the Thai people. Again, everyone says so.

March 20, 2022: Boris Johnson could not have picked a poorer comparison than the one he chose on Saturday, when he likened Ukrainians’ fight for their freedom to his country’s desire to stay away from fundamental aspects of the European Union.

First, fight against military bombardment that caused real, sudden deaths and constant and genuine fears for ones’ lives can never be compared to economic matters differentiated in taxes and other financial numbers. Second, many people in Ukraine have wanted to join the EU and participate in economic schemes that Johnson’s compatriots so very much wished to escape.

Johnson has probably learned the hard way that while (perceived) hypocrisy was bad, it’s worse in politics. Addressing the Ukraine crisis while giving a speech to the Conservative Party’s spring conference in Blackpool on Saturday, he said: “I know that it’s the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time. I can give you a couple of famous recent examples.

“When the British people voted for Brexit in such large, large numbers, I don’t believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners.

“It’s because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself.”

The comment has triggered an uproar, of course, but while Johhson has been widely criticised for comparing things that are incomparable, he has yet to answer one important question: If an economically stronger nation like England wanted to stay away from the EU, what does he think about Ukraine becoming part of the union?

March 19, 2022: It’s no secret that the leaders of the two superpowers have all but burned their bridges, but a “war criminal” charge by the top man at the White House has made it official.

When President Biden declared on Wednesday, “from his heart” as his aides would later say, that President Vladimir V. Putin was a “war criminal,” it was a blood feud, a vendetta that would prevent any reconciliation.

The White House says that “regime change” in Russia is not on Washington’s strategic agenda. (If Washington had said otherwise, everyone would have started building nuclear bunkers.) But the world has seen what happened when US presidents called national leaders war criminals, rightly or wrongly — Saddam Hussein in Iraq or Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Efforts ensued, openly or secretly, to drive them from office.

The world would never be the same the moment Russian troops swept into Ukraine. Biden calling Putin “a murderous dictator, a pure thug who is waging an immoral war against the people of Ukraine” in addition to the “War criminal” labelling, just confirmed there is no way back.

March 18, 2022: The Thai Economic Party formally launched itself today with an all-too-familiar pledge to “stand by the Thai people” and controversial Thammanat Prompao as its secretary general.

The overall opening statement, however, can be deceptively normal in the current political environment. The party’s vow to strictly uphold the Thai political system will make switching entirely to the opposition bloc difficult, because the latter is known to favour drastic establishment reforms, some of which are opposed by the conservatives.

The party leader, Wich Theamhasadin Na Ayuthaya, said his camp would back the government “if what it does is right” and support the opposition if what the government does is wrong.

“I know what reporters want to know, which is which side we will be on,” he said. “The only side we will be on is the people’s”.

March 17, 2022: Rising case numbers are backing the biggest opposition party’s insistence that it’s a bad time to underestimate the coronavirus now.

A Facebook post by a deputy Pheu Thai spokesman, apparently speaking on behalf of the party, said the government’s decision to downgrade COVID-19 to the “endemic” level “reaffirms the government’s ‘never-listen’ tendency.”

Chanin Rungtanakiat said the Prayut government might have a hidden agenda of not wanting to spend big any more for infected Thais. Saying what will certainly become the party’s line in attacking the policy, he insisted that the endemic approach went against the current situation, reflected an impulse to act too quickly, without listening to voices outside the government, especially experts, and probably was also motivated by an untold problem of “being broke”.

With infection and death numbers climbing, Pheu Thai will have a strong case.

March 16, 2022: The Bangkok gubernatorial election is not over already, according to a key pollster who goes against a prevailing belief that the hot-favourite candidate is too strong for any rival.

In a TV interview, Noppadon Kannika, representing Super Poll, gave the following reasons to back up his agency’s opinion that Chadchart Sittipunt’s lead in popularity surveys may not actually be as comfortable as it appeared:

First, Chadchart was among the first to announce intention to compete in the race, so his name was easily or automatically embedded in eligible voters’ minds. Therefore, when they were asked by pollsters who they planned to cast ballots for, they gave the most familiar name, which is his. It’s not necessary that those who told pollsters his name would actually vote for him comes May 22.

Second, the Democrat Party, despite big humiliation in Bangkok in the last general election, won an average 10 per cent of capital votes in that poll. If that 10 per cent remains loyal to the oldest political camp in the gubernatorial election, its candidate, Suchatchavee Suwansawas, could get hundreds of thousands of votes when constituency boundaries disappear on May 22.

Third, Super Poll has found out that the number of undecided voters remain the biggest portion of people eligible to cast gubernatorial ballots. They can benefit either Chadchart or his opponents.

Fourth, it remains to be seen how national politics would influence the outcome. Many people, Noppadon noted, perceived Chadchart as being associated with the Pheu Thai Party despite the announcement that he would run as an independent.

March 15, 2022: The Prayut government spokesman said today the prime minister will decide “what time is suitable” when the issue of dissolving the House of Representatives is concerned.

That speaks volumes.

For one thing, spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana could have just ruled out what Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, leader of the biggest coalition party, said a day ago. Instead, Thanakorn left Prawit’s statement that a post-APEC House dissolution is probably appropriate hanging in the air.

“The deputy prime minister was voicing his personal opinion, and it’s the prime minister who will decide what time is suitable,” Thanakorn said.

That won’t stop renewed speculation about a House dissolution, will it?

March 14, 2022: To read between the opposition leader’s lines, it remains uncertain how many government MPs will revolt openly in Parliament whose key schedules are around the corner.

Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew today expressed public confidence that there are as many as 30 dissident MPs in the government bloc who are ready to “do what the people want” by joining the opposition. “It’s highly possible that they will cross over,” he said. “The endgame’s winner is the one who can control the 30 MPs. We will see who will be able to do that.”

A sizeable rebellion in the government has been a strong possibility since the break-up between the prime minister and controversial kingmaker Thammanat Prompao. However, the fact that Cholnan warned government dissidents against having a second thought probably showed that a mass defection is still not a certainty.

“Going against the will of the people will negatively affect (their) chances in the next election,” Cholnan said. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha may take heart from this statement, which means Cholnan himself was not 100 per cent sure. If the opposition leader had 30 government MPs in his pocket for certain, it would have been a show of gratitude rather than a threat or a warning.

March 13, 2022: With attentions turning elsewhere and apparently-decreasing severity of its own easing human worries, the coronavirus is fading from the front pages, yet it faces a new blow from the Chinese.

It’s a highly-technical scientific research, discovery and innovation, but it can hopefully make the fight against COVID-19 much simpler, possibly getting the “booster shots” issue out of the equation.

According to a Xinhua report, the Chinese are optimistic that a drug that can be inhaled can help clean up infected lungs effectively no matter which variant has made its way there. “Bn03” reportedly is working so well on badly-infected lab mouses that human trials are beginning.

It’s good news on many aspects. “Bn03” could hopefully tackle elusive variants. It could reach the lungs very quickly, meaning it could hasten healing processes even for severely-ill patients. Small amounts would be required, meaning greater availability could be expected and production, distribution as well as administration could be a lot more convenient. It could, again hopefully, help the hospitals. And people who fear needles, it could be a magnificent option.   

March 12, 2022: In arguably the clearest confirmation that the West will not help Ukraine militarily, the US president has said doing so could lead to a new World War.

Joe Biden said America would defend NATO to the point of World War III, but he insisted that he won’t risk touching off a wider conflict by fighting Russia in Ukraine. He ruled out establishing a no-fly zone that the Ukrainian president wanted so much.

Backing NATO up to the hilt is no news. In other words, he is saying what he is supposed to say. It’s the question of how far the US will go in helping Ukraine that is the most relevant at the moment.

“As we provide this support to Ukraine, we’re going to continue to stand together with our allies in Europe and send an unmistakable message: that we will defend every inch of NATO territory,” Biden said in Philadelphia on Friday during a speech to Democrats, according to Bloomberg. “If they move once — granted, if we respond, it is World War III, but we have a sacred obligation on NATO territory.”

But, he said: “We will not fight the third World War in Ukraine.”

March 11, 2022: Anyone has the right to meet Thaksin Shinawatra outside Thailand, make no mistake about that. But if the visitors are MPs in a country that constitutionally prohibits undue “outside influences” affecting what a political party does, they are putting many things in jeopardy.

Danger of the recent meeting in Singapore between a group of Pheu Thai lawmakers and Thaksin is palpable because 1) the party proposed a controversial bill many years ago that critics said would whitewash him, 2) the party is advocating amending the Constitution so honest “advice” wouldn’t count as “influence”, 3) Pheu Thai is leading or will lead parliamentary moves regarding quorum tactics and financial or monetary bills of the government, and 4) there are other issues like leadership transition, high-ranking positions in the party, as well as the upcoming Bangkok gubernatorial election.

Thaksin coming to Singapore earlier this month with sister Yingluck Shinawatra for routine medical checks couldn’t be kept a secret. Neither could a visit by Pheu Thai MPs whose number was rumoured to be “quite a lot”.

Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew is scrambling to distance the party from the “personal meeting” between party members and Thaksin. But political activist Srisuwan Janya has asked the National Anti-Corruption Commission to rule on it, citing circumstantial evidence to suggest it was a meeting to discuss political strategies aimed at overthrowing the Prayut government.

Opposition MPs discussing anti-government strategies is one thing; Thaksin joining and possibly leading the discussion is quite another. If Pheu Thai is ruled “guilty” for violating the Constitution, consequences could be dire.

“It’s a personal matter,” insisted Cholnan today. “Complaints should be made on a personal basis, not against the party.” On Srisuwan’s move, he said: “He can do what he’s doing, and I wouldn’t say anything except that the party has absolutely nothing to do with the meeting.”

March 10, 2022: It can boggle the mind. Ukraine joining NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) could have prevented the current war, but the prospect of such a membership has brought about the war. If tantalising invitations had been sent to Ukraine by the West, isn’t NATO flexing its military muscles now the best advertisement ever? Shouldn’t NATO go all out and prove to the Ukrainians that “This is what we were talking about.”? And if NATO can’t help, why would Ukraine want to join it at the beginning and will it still want to join it?

The complexities of the Russia-Ukraine-NATO-America issue ensure that when push comes to shove, product owners will ask customers to read the tiny asterisked warning at the bottom of the brochure. It literally says everything is subjected to changes.

Pressure is growing on the Biden administration and its European allies to justify whether what they are doing regarding the “invasion” is enough. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has issued another searing plea for a no-fly zone, which NATO allies have so far refused because they feared that it could spark a direct military confrontation with Russia.

“People, children are under the wreckage. Atrocity!” Zelensky said on his Telegram account after the attack Wednesday. He also questioned whether people who were supposed to help and were capable of helping were “losing” their humanity. “How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror?”

To sum up the NATO paradox, or NATO’s dilemma if you will, a Democratic congressional member in America has said he didn’t get it. The Ukrainian situation, noted Rep Mike Quigley of Illinois, the co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, is the “main reason NATO was formed in the first place.”

March 9, 2022: Average gas prices in America have risen to an all-time high, breaking the previous record of $4.103 per gallon in 2008 when the subprime crisis almost collapsed the world’s economy.

Gas prices in the United States were one-tenth of a cent higher than the 2008 record, a climb that threatens to hamper economic growth in America, lift the already high inflation in that country, and cut down summer road trips.

The oil pain has begun to be felt the world over, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine whose economic consequences are threatening to catch up with political and diplomatic ones.

US President Joe Biden has imposed an immediate ban on Russian oil and other energy imports, while the United Kingdom has vowed to phase out imports by the end of 2022. The latest sanctions are likely to result in even higher prices at the pump.

In Thailand, according to Nantiwat Samart, former deputy head of the National Intelligence Agency, a scenario where those under 60 have no or little experience of _ a combination of great military and economic tensions on a day-to-day basis _ are becoming a real possibility.

March 8, 2022: A well-known lawyer who basically ignored _ lambasted actually _ all of the “circumstantial evidence” in the Nong Chompoo case is asking society to pay serious attention to all circumstantial occurrences before, during and after the Tangmo tragedy. The media and the social media, which were the main reason why Nong Chompoo’s parents had to beg society to “Please understand us” and why the eventual police suspect was able to make a fortune, only for them to make an embarrassing U-turn later, have turned against someone who has lost her daughter for mentioning “damages” on air. Respect for privacy and personal feelings has given way to the “search for truth”. The police are again suspected by society, probably for good reasons, but the line between them being deservedly monitored and unduly interrupted like in Nong Chompoo’s case is getting thinner and thinner.

All of the aforementioned players are great influencers and they are like a knife that can cut both ways. They can expose the bad guys, hasten investigation and serve justice, or they can make the innocents, already victims in many cases, suffer greatly. It is impossible to stop someone who wants to have a say these days, so the only advice, perhaps, is think twice before speaking, sharing, labelling or hashtagging.

Last but not least, everyone should keep a close watch on politics. (Loong Phol’s case made its way to Parliament, didn’t it?) Now that a few politicians who haven’t seen a thing are claiming they know everything, it’s a dangerous situation.

March 7, 2022: A CNN report saying US and European officials have been discussing how the West would possibly support a government in exile helmed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has increased talks on the on-going war’s destination.

Is the discussion a formality? Or is it a good indication that resistance against Russian forces is a lost cause?

Western officials told CNN Zelensky’s “legitimacy” would likely be backed in case he has to flee Kyiv.

According to CNN, the discussion has ranged from supporting Zelensky and top Ukrainian officials in a potential move to Lviv in western Ukraine to the possibility that Zelensky and his aides are forced to flee Ukraine altogether and establish a new government in Poland.

The discussion is only preliminary and no decisions have been made, the CNN quoted the sources as stressing. That, however, could not prevent increased speculation about how the current war will transpire.

March 6, 2022: A key coalition leader has said that modern Thai political history showed governments often collapsed because of “insiders” playing a big part.

Anutin Charnvirakul, public health minister and leader of the Bhumjaithai Party, reaffirmed his loyalty to the prime minister, but he seemed to wonder why talks about government instability in terms of votes in Parliament have got louder of late than when the government was born more than two years ago with even more “dangerous” parliamentary numbers.

“If you go by official status, the government has sufficiently more MPs than the opposition,” he said. “It’s remarkably more than when this government was formed.”

His interview was given in the context that from his perspective, the government seemed stable when parliamentary numbers are concerned and he did not see any sign of internal rebellion at the moment. But Anutin did mention that Thailand’s past political records showed governments collapsed mostly because of inside jobs rather than external ones.

“You can go and check history,” he told reporters. “Governments imploded, which came from the inside. As long as I remember, no external factor could destroy a government. So, it’s important that the government must keep working and listening to the people and making sure that there is no back-stabbing, paranoia or deep mistrust.”

March 5, 2022: A Supreme Court ruling earlier this week confirming a lengthy jail sentence for a former minister in the Thaksin government must have rattled many and reminded everyone of persisting problems in Thailand.

The Thai Sang Thai Party of Sudarat Keyuraphan, which named former Social Development and Human Security minister Watana Muangsook as a key adviser, is affected. So is the Pheu Thai Party because of its connections with Thaksin Shinawatra, under whose prime ministerial guidance the Eua-Arthorn “cheap housing” project was conceived and implemented.

To add to that, an alleged go-between man was also implicated in the controversial rice-pledging scheme of the Yingluck government. And whether he intends it or not, Watana’s “I’m staying put to fight my case” remark, which has become his trademark comment, must have put people in “exile” in a bad light.

Watana has gone down as another former minister convicted for alleged corruption. Still, whether the war against graft, declared by basically everyone in power or hoping to gain power, will be won, or whether politicisation will continue to overshadow everything, remains to be seen.

March 4, 2022: A lot of people have come under fire following a speedboat “accident” last week that claimed the life of a young actress, and bearing the blunt of the furious national obsession include those who society believe are supposed to work a lot faster in bringing the murky circumstances to light.

The Thai police have called for an end to wild speculation in the wake of Nida “Tangmo” Patcharaveerapong’s death. In many aspects, they apparently have a point. Social media theories are turning what looked like a simple, tragic accident into a story of betrayal, gruesome conspiracy and bribery. Even if there are grounds to believe the case requires a thorough investigation, the magnitude of public accusations being hurled against certain people can have a negative impact on detectives’ work.

But if the police have a point, so do their critics. The longer it takes to investigate why someone fell off a speedboat and died, the likelier all kind of suspicion will grow. The simpler a case looks, the greater the likelihood of shocking theories overshadowing everything if the authorities take too long to explain the “simplicity”. Last but not least, goes the criticism, it’s not as if the police never take bribes from the rich or never twist information in favour of the powerful.

A few more days and everything will be clear, the Thai police say. It’s too long already, they are told.

March 3, 2022: Over the past few days, Ukraine’s calls for Russia to be severed from the World Wide Web have got louder and louder, but experts doubt that the measure is practical or will not backfire in the long run.

Tech companies cutting off Russia from the internet completely will further reduce the reach of state-backed Russian media, leave Russian websites without a home, cripple users of email as well as other essential services.

The “downside” is that those upheavals may give authoritarian regimes some ideas and the Russian rulers what they want _ a citizenry fed one-sidedly by state information who should have been able to compare it with what others say. However, after banking, sporting and diplomatic measures, the cyberspace option may be frequently revisited.

March 2, 2022: Roman Abramovich is likely to decide in a matter of days whether he would sell one thing that he apparently loves passionately _ the Chelsea Football Club, according to a leading England-based sports reporter.

Matt Law, whose past reports on Chelsea FC have been largely creditable, said Abramovich’s decision to transfer all management responsibilities to a trustee may not be enough to cope with growing pressure in the wake of the Ukraine invasion. Lucrative bids are likely to be made in the next few days and one of the bidders is said to be a Swiss billionaire.

The Chelsea issue has been simmering for quite some time amid Russia’s deteriorating diplomatic relations with the West. After the invasion of Ukraine, Russian football clubs and national teams have been suspended from all competitions by Fifa and Uefa.

The world and European football governing bodies said they would be banned “until further notice”, meaning the Russian men’s team will not play their World Cup play-off matches next month and the women’s team have been banned from this summer’s Euro 2022 competition.

Abramovich, despite his nationality and certain questionable backgrounds, has been seen as passionate when it comes to football and Chelsea. In fact, the Russian mogul has been considered one of just a few football clubs’ owners who cared less about profits and more about team achievement.

March 1, 2022: Nepotism is a political demon that lurks in all kinds of ideological environments, and while it is prevalent in a dictatorship, it can also weaken democracy considerably.

Worse still, this demon feeds off rivalry of ideologies.

The latest plight of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is an Exhibit A of that. On the one hand, the case of Thawil Pliensri took place while Thailand was supposedly more democratic than now. On the other hand, action is only being taken against her when the country is “less democratic”, raising the question whether it was a conspiracy to twist the knife in the wound of a fallen rival rather than a sincere effort to get rid of one of the biggest scourges haunting the political system.

To cut a long story short, Thawil was removed as head of the National Security Council while Yingluck was in power, so that then police chief Wichean Poteposree, who was at the time having to give the helm of the national police to political favourite Priewphan Damapong, allegedly could have a graceful exit. Priewphan got the police top job and Wichean had his face “saved” by taking over at the NSC. Allegedly, Thawil became the ultimate victim in this high-level practice in nepotism.

Everyone knew at the time that Priewphan was very close to the Shinawatras, and arguments were made against his qualifications for the highest police post. These pieces of information were included in Thawil’s complaint to the Administrative Court, which subsequently ruled in his favour.

This week, the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) in Thailand has resolved to file malfeasance charges, under Section 157 of the Penal Code, with the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders against Yingluck. Without serious political divide, the case is controversial enough. With it, the demon that is called nepotism must be smiling from ear to ear.

 

Daily update of significant local and international events by Tulsathit Taptim