14 July 2024

August 31, 2023: The biggest party seems to want Cholanan Srikaew to show a bit more sincerity in addition to resigning as the Pheu Thai Party’s leader.

“Is this the entertainment industry or politics?” asked Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome. He wouldn’t be totally convinced that Cholanan was sorry for Pheu Thai joining hands with Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation until the Cabinet list is officially out that shows the former Pheu Thai leader’s name is not in it.

“A promise is a promise, and I don’t want to get involved with other parties’ affairs,” Rangsiman said. “But it’s not proper politics if you quit a certain position but take a new (high-profile) one.”

Rangsiman made a good point. Although Cholanan’s vow to quit the Pheu Thai helm if the party joined a government with Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation said nothing about rejecting a Cabinet post, everyone would assume he would definitely turn down a post in a government that has Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation.

It’s better, politically, for Cholanan to keep the Pheu Thai leadership and become, say, the Public Health minister than dropping the leadership citing the promise and becoming the minister all the same. In other words, it’s better to flip-flop openly than to flip-flop and pretend lamely not to.

August 30, 2023: If humans had gone strictly by the book, there would have been just one type of cars, or one type of airplanes, or one type of mobile phones. There would have been no sports stars emerging from the poorest corners of the world because there would have been nothing to inspire the kids. The music industry would have been absolutely bland. Creativity in the movie-making community would have been totally limited, not least because screenplay-writing aspirants without money to subscribe to Netflix would have had no access to cheaper “resources”.

Copycat products are always slammed, but without them, destitute people would have been left so far behind. And they use them not because they want to, but because they are all they can afford.

People who matter have gone a bit easier on medicine, but even so, “patent” has caused a major social travesty when global public health is concerned.

One laughable pretext is that without intellectual property benefits, there would be no innovations because there would be no incentives. Ludicrous as it is, the pretext is here to stay. Everyone grows up being taught that he or she must be paid in money for everything created by him or her.  The “season of sharing” is great, but one important thing that should have been shared remains unshared.

“Pang Cha” is just a tiny part in the big, ironic picture.

August 29, 2023: Thailand’s new government will have to walk an absolute tightrope regarding the country’s relations with Washington and Beijing, whose political tension, caused largely by economic interests, can be really rolling towards something worse in the near future, according to a senior economic and foreign affair analyst.

Thanong Khanthong, former business editor whose analytical insight into foreign affairs has gained a big following, warned in a news clip presented last week by a much-viewed channel that conflicts between China and the United States could explode really soon and force the rest of the world to take sides.

It is an eerie warning because, as everyone knows, the Srettha coalition brings together politicians with clashing opinions on America and China. Coming issues will be something that vague or beat-around-the-bush statements cannot paper over, as they will require decisive action, such as the Brics membership application and the increasingly-tense situations concerning Taiwan or the South China Sea.

To make matters worse, Asean, unlike the European Union, is not unified over China and the United States, Thanong noted. He feels that the new Thai government has a big decision to make.

“We can’t be an enemy of China, not least because of the close proximity,” he said. That is in addition to the fact that China can surpass the United States as the world’s biggest economy in a few years.

August 28, 2023: The perception that Srettha Thavisin is presiding over a coalition government with arguably the most fragile unity is strong, but doubts are also growing about the opposition’s ability to capitalise on that.

Analysts believe that while Move Forward’s ideological aggression can be popular with voters, such a trait would help little when the role of parliamentary opposition is concerned. For example, at a censure, launching into ideological attacks could not go very far, because it’s evidence of corruption that really matters.

The Democrats were usually good at finding _ and maximising the impact of _ such evidence. That is why there was a political saying in Thailand that when it came to parliamentary opposition, the Democrats were the best. But Thailand’s oldest party is now too weak and splintered to craft and carry out meaningful assaults.

This leaves Move Forward with a big burden, but the biggest party’s electoral strength can be its parliamentary weakness. Moreover, the party is still reeling from a big shock after losing out in the government formation game. Its current mindset, apparently, is not “We are the opposition so we will leave no stone unturned on state spending irregularities” but “We have been here because we were ideologically betrayed.”

The role of a heartbroken “nice guy” can be beneficial if public sentiment remains the same comes the next election. But nothing is certain, the analysts say. What is certain is that such a role will help Srettha in Parliament to a large extent. For its own good and public sake, Move Forward will need to shake off the disappointment, come to terms with the opposition role and reset its strategies accordingly.

August 27, 2023: The first Move Forward-Democrat complication can be over which party should take the largely-ceremonial post of opposition leader, as the former has already attained the deputy speakership of the House of Representatives.

As Move Forward comfortably outnumbers the Democrat Party in Parliament, the biggest political camp can still craft, push and maneuver legislative agendas, but the “opposition leader” will be in the news a lot and get to speak ahead of other MPs when it comes to motions like censure.

The Democrats would love to open the censure salvo against Srettha Thavisin, wouldn’t they? But so would the “betrayed” Move Forward.

According to a legal expert on administrative and legislative processes, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, if a party is to get the official leadership of the opposition, it must not hold a deputy House speakership already. With Move Forward’s Padipat Suntiphada serving as a deputy House speaker, the position of opposition leader has to go to the Democrats, Wissanu said.

A major headache began recently for Move Forward regarding Padipat. A political activist lodged a complaint against him in his deputy House speaker capacity following alleged use of parliamentary funds to host a buffet for maids working at the parliament complex.

August 26, 2023: Don’t let the “formality” fool you. It’s a picture that tells a thousand words probably. What appears a routine courtesy call makes Jatuporn Prompan absolutely resentful, many red shirts bitter and Move Forward clench its jaws.

Thursday’s photo of Prayut Chan-o-cha and Srettha Thavisin looking like a young couple in love relaxing in a serene garden has gone viral and the impact must have been anything but serene.

“No red socks and no red shirt like during the election campaign?” Jatuporn Prompan said during his Facebook live, the title of which was “Great!” The former red shirt leader even mentioned that Srettha’s necktie colour was yellow, and that what Pheu Thai had done stank to high heaven.

Not just Jatuporn, of course. A short video clip of Paetongtarn Shinawatra saying “Please hear me out. We won’t join military parties” is also being shared like crazy.

August 25, 2023: The American dollar is “safe” for now, but the people determined to devalue it are getting stronger.

From the beginning of next year, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Argentina, the UAE and Ethiopia will join the current five Brics members – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The countries’ names must increase worries in Washington although the grouping’s “dedollarisation” agenda did not get a big follow-up or publicity at the Brics summit in Johannesburg this week.

“This is significant, and shouldn’t be dismissed by G7 and other global north actors,” Margaret Myers, the director of the Asia and Latin America programme at the Inter-American Dialogue, was quoted by The Guardian as saying. “With these new members – especially the major oil producing ones – on board, the Brics configuration represents a much more significant share of the global economy and global population.”

China’s leader Xi Jinping described the expansion as “historic.” Russian President Vladmir Putin joined by video link from Russia, with western reports saying he was afraid of being arrested over alleged war crimes. Predictably, Putin took aim at Western powers, saying their “neo-liberalism” threatened not only developing countries’ traditional values but also the emergence of a multi-polar world where no one country or bloc should dominate.

With the Brics summit curtain coming down, everyone seems to have something to gain although Brazil and India could be less enthusiastic about expansion, because while membership clout can increase for powerful nations or top anti-US countries like Iran, that would not happen for them.

A BBC headline asks a straightforward question: Is a new bloc emerging to rival US leadership?

One BBC subheading highlighted what Sarang Shidore, director of the Global South programme at the Quincy Institute in Washington, said ominously: “US can’t set all the norms”.

August 24, 2023: “We don’t want to inherit the hatred,” declared rogue MPs of Thailand’s oldest party who voted for Srettha Thavisin, the prime ministerial candidate of its arch-rival.

That was after former prime minister and former Democrat leader Chuan Leekpai belittled their action, suggesting it was motivated by the urge to jump on the Pheu Thai bandwagon and be in the Srettha government.

News headlines are saying the Democrat Party has been splintered beyond cure. Which can be right. Joining Move Forward in the opposition bloc will unlikely take back Bangkok in the next general election, and the Democrats’ southern dominance is obviously under threat.

The party’s free fall is continuing. Move Forward has totally eclipsed it in the capital. Pheu Thai still won 141 seats compared with the Democrats’ pitiful 25. Leaders and key members keep leaving their party posts or ending party membership entirely. Those who remain are squabbling. Now, the party will be in the opposition side of Parliament.

A big group of Democrat MPs showed up at Parliament today to explain why they voted for Srettha although the party did not want them to. They said the party’s final meeting held before the joint sitting of Parliament divided Democrats into three groups _ those wanting to forget about the past and vote for Srettha especially as the country was hitting a dead end; those thinking past conflicts were too severe to forget who want to vote no; and those saying abstention was then best for all.

Deputy Democrat leader Det-it Khaothong led the group to speak its mind. He said there had been no vote to settle the differences among party members before the Srettha session. So, to the understanding of the rebel MPs, it was not written in stone that all Democrats must not support the Pheu Thai man.

According to Det-it, as two senior Democrats voted no while another abstained, it strengthened the understanding that there was no resolution against Srettha. The rogue MPs then considered information derived from the joint sitting debate and concluded that charges against Srettha had to do with personal dealings, not national matters.

“We found it acceptable (to vote for him). We are new blood who never wore either yellow shirts or red shirts. We were not in the conflicts. We don’t deserve to inherit those conflicts. We have been talking to people and everyone said they wanted the country to move forward. We should make him prime minister (even though) we will be the opposition,” he said.

It seems to be a great statement. But take your pick, though. Chuan obviously knows a thing or two about “cobras” while Det-in apparently knows a thing or two about being new blood.

August 23, 2023: Nobody had expected Thaksin Shinawatra to be thrown right away into normal procedures that ordinary new inmates have to go through, but, seeing his smiling and almost-triumphant arrival from exile on Tuesday, nobody expected him to be immediately declared medically worrisome warranting top-class treatment either.

He was reportedly transferred from the Bangkok Remand Prison to the Police General Hospital in the middle of the night apparently due to chest pain, high blood pressure and low blood oxygen. There was no air-conditioner at the hospital room, officials insisted. Only two fans were used, they said.

News reports said the room is reserved for “special” patients.

The room is called Royal Suite 1041 located on the 14th floor of the Maha Bhumibol Rachanusorn 88 Phansa Building. It’s a room without a view, the officials said. Media announcement is expected to be regular so that reports about him will not be “misleading.”

To be fair to him, he’s by no means the only inmate getting medical treatment outside prison. Some jailed political activists have received the same privilege, it’s claimed.

According to official sources quoted by the media, the Corrections Hospital is not equipped to handle Thaksin’s conditions as diagnosed while he was in exile. It was reportedly concluded that he would be better off at the Police General Hospital.

August 22, 2023: One positive way to look at it is that Day One is passing without troubles, but as Thailand has today installed a new prime minister who comes from the party another man who has returned from a long exile on the very same day had founded, any optimism has to be extremely guarded.

A negative way to see it is that knife must be behind everyone’s back. The Srettha Thavisin coalition is a marriage of convenience rather than a genuine exercise toward reconciliation. Even top Pheu Thai bosses have said that they were doing it because they had to, not because they wanted to.

The Senate embracing Srettha asks more questions than it has answered. And many more difficult questions _ long-term and short-term _ remain unanswered, concerning the Constitution, public policies and ideologies. Even how Thaksin’s hair is cut can become a heated political topic. The fighting for Cabinet posts will be tumultuous and can even crack open the fragile alliance in the next few days. When Move Forward launches a censure against Srettha, which the party definitely will, it will be absorbing.

The newly-ended chapter was exciting. But it can pale beside the one that has just started.

August 21, 2023: One of the most overused words in politics _ crossroads _ is the only proper description of Thailand’s political situation for now and the immediate future. All are entering theirs _ the Pheu Thai Party, the Move Forward Party, the military, political parties relatively “in the middle”, Thaksin Shinawatra, the Red Shirts, their sympathisers, those on the other side, and the general Thai public.

Uncertainties will plague the next 24 hours, during which Thaksin is scheduled to return home and Parliament will decide whether a nominee from the political party that he founded should be Thailand’s new prime minister. Some, like Nuttawut Saikua and executives of Pheu Thai and the “Uncles parties” as well as the Democrats, have made decisions already. Others will wait and see. The rest simply does not know what to do. Nobody can say with absolute certainty that Thailand’s next prime minister will be Srettha Thavisin.

Considering the names of political parties in the Pheu Thai alliance, he should overcome the Senate and sail through. The on-going scrutiny into his ethical business backgrounds would then be limited to manoeuvrings of the Move Forward Party, Chuwit Kamolvisit, Jatuporn Prompan and all the “red turning orange” activists who can’t bear the shocking transformation of the Pheu Thai Party. They should not pose a big threat if Srettha stands on a solid political ground.

Yet there are people who think that Srettha, like Pita Limjaroenrat before him, has come as far as he could. Thaksin’s return from exile is coinciding with the United Thai Nation and Palang Pracharath parties agreeing to back Pheu Thai, so that must be part of “diluting the colours”. But what is the best form of “diluting the colours” exactly? Will it be “too Pheu Thai for comfort” if Thaksin comes back to a Thailand ruled by a Pheu Thai prime minister? Will it be more “appropriate” if the prime minister is somebody else? Is the presence of the “uncles’ parties” in the Pheu Thai coalition enough to satisfy the senators? What will happen if Srettha’s nomination is shot down, with Pheu Thai having passed the point of no return?

Nobody knows for sure if the uncharted waters will be calm or ferocious.

August 20, 2023: Pheu Thai MPs can defend Srettha Thavisin’s prime ministerial nomination to a certain extent in Parliament on Tuesday, but it will be so much better for his own good if he does it himself, a senator said.

According to Direkrit Janeklongtham, Srettha needs to wear his heart on his sleeve on three important matters _ charter amendment (he must tell Parliament what he thinks is wrong with the current Constitution, and, in case he insists the Constitution has to be fixed, he must give details on how it should be done); allegations concerning his business dealings and; personal background that must not contradict constitutional qualifications like shareholding.

Direkrit asked who would do it better than the man himself.

“People are saying he does not have to be in the assembly hall during the debate on him, which is correct,” said Direkrit. “But he will be welcomed to defend himself. It’s a now-or-never chance and the answer to the question of who will benefit from Srettha defending himself is a no-brainer.”

August 19, 2023: Editors will have a hard time next Tuesday weighing Thaksin Shinawatra’s “return” against another round of parliamentary vote to select the new prime minister.

The two stories are related actually. Here are suggested intros combining the two big developments: “After about one decade and a half, Thaksin Shinawatra has returned from exile to Thailand which on the same day has installed a new prime minister from the political party that he founded.”

Or “Thaksin Shinawatra has broken another promise yet to return to Thailand on the day its Parliament vetoed a prime ministerial nomination from the party he founded.”

Or “After about one decade and a half, Thaksin Shinawatra has returned from exile to Thailand although its Parliament, on the same day, rejected a prime ministerial nomination from the party he founded.”

Or “Thaksin Shinawatra has broken another promise yet to return to Thailand even though its Parliament, on the same day, elected a nominee from the party he founded as the next prime minister.”

August 18, 2023: Parliament will spend a lot of time debating Srettha Thavisin next week, but the other two prime ministerial candidates of the Pheu Thai Party would virtually set the assembly hall on fire.

Things can change, but as of now Srettha is Pheu Thai’s likeliest choice going into the joint parliamentary sitting next week to select the new prime minister. Paetongtarn Shinawatra is too close to Thaksin Shinawatra and Chaikasem Nitisiri is probably too “political” with apparently-hostile backgrounds toward the other side.

Srettha is outspoken, but despite his frequent ideological remarks during the election campaign he has always been generally perceived as a business guru who can help when current Thai economic conditions are concerned. If senators have to vote for one of the trio, it would probably be him.

Paetongtarn’s name would trigger a never-ending debate, especially as her father is hell-bent on returning to Thailand. Chaikasem’s political records and ideological stance would be dug up. Either nomination would set alight the joint sitting.

Srettha would be like Thaksin when the latter first emerged onto the political stage, showcasing business acumen along with some controversial trickiness in getting deals done, a trait that many people will find acceptable.

August 17, 2023: With hindsight, Prayut Chan-o-cha’s “eight-year” controversy is looking more absurd by the minute.

Next week will have marked one year since the Constitutional Court suspended Prayut from prime ministerial duty and late next month will have been a year since he was allowed by the court to resume his government role.

Thailand will likely have a new prime minister by the end of September but the Prayut eight-year fuss is appearing increasingly ridiculous all the same. It has been more than three months since the May 14 general election, and here remains Prayut at Government House.

Thais are one week away from the first anniversary of the date that many people thought should be Prayut’s last in office. The crux of the eight-year tumult was about whether he should remain prime minister beyond August 24 last year.

During a short train trip while overseeing a double-track railway system in Saraburi today, he joked with Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul, tipped to be in the next government, lectured reporters on how every country is like a train that needs a good locomotive, and would not comment or give any advice regarding the present political turmoil.

Coincidentally, Parliament will have a joint sitting next week, August 22, to select the new prime minister. Many hope Thailand will have a prime minister-elect from the Pheu Thai Party on that day. But there’s a great chance Prayut will continue to lead a “prime minister-less” Thailand comes August 24, the date that caused so much debate, suspense and anxiety last year.

August 16, 2023: The biggest and second-biggest parties are competing for the “best last words” award as they attempt to smear each other regarding the shambolic formation of the new government.

Voting for you is tantamount to voting for those who gave us the dismay in the first place, Move Forward is practically explaining why it would reject a Pheu Thai prime ministerial candidate.

That was in a press conference this week.

Look who voted for Pita Limjaroenrat previously, and it’s not our fault that his nomination didn’t go through, Pheu Thai said through its outspoken MP Adisorn Piengkes.

That was in a poem tweeted, also this week, by the party-list lawmaker. The poem also said that “Orange without friends” would get more and more insipid.

The apparent transformation of the frenemies into full-scale rivals has just begun, so more priceless quips are certainly on the way.

August 15, 2023: For ages, the chairmanship of Thailand’s sporting associations has mostly been reserved for retiring or retired men in uniform or senior officials, bureaucrats or politicians in the twilight years of their careers leading to a lack of true passion or dedication to the new job.

It did not happen all across the board, but largely it was the case. Cue shady deals and unscrupulous politicking, if the related sports can thrive it may have been in spite of _ not because of _ the chairpersons.

Nualphan Lamsam, manager of Thailand’s national football team, who announced on Sunday that she would compete for the position of Football Association of Thailand (FAT) president, at least is truly passionate about the world’s most popular sport. Widely known as Madam Pang, she’s also the chair of Port FC apart from being the well-known CEO of Muang Thai Insurance. The resume brings about hope.

The FAT will elect a new president in February next year. She would have been up against the nation’s former striker Piyapong Pue-on who is no less passionate about football but who has decided to step out of her way despite his impressive knowledge about the sport and its trouble-plagued management. Piyapong bowing out has increased her chances drastically.

Thailand’s football legend is wishing her well. Apart from that, Piyapong suggests that he knows the bad tradition and he expresses hope that she could overcome it.

“I honestly think that she being in the race is a good omen for Thai football,” Piyapong was quoted as saying. “She’s qualified and she’s ready. I truly believe that her 16 years of experience in football management have equipped her with true knowledge about Thai football and related problems, whether they are on the surface or deeper.”

World Cup is a long shot, but if Nualphan, if elected, can take the Thai national team to the planet’s most popular tournament, she will have achieved what Thai men have failed forever.

August 14, 2023: Thailand’s next government will have to grapple with an issue that divides not just Thais, but the whole world.

Political divide in Thailand is largely ideological, but if Brics countries announce a clear-cut plan on the “de-dollarisation” agenda during their summit next week, the Thai polarisation will also become economic on a grand scale.

Like the Thai public, Thai politicians are divided into pro- and anti-America camps, albeit less openly. When it comes to the US dollar, which is fundamental in the global economic order Thailand is in, it has been a matter of gritting ones’ teeth and bearing it for many Thais.

The ambivalence has been increasingly painful due to America’s progressively-shaky economic situations. Its banks are failing, debts both in the government and family sectors are shooting off the charts, its fight against inflation has become a damn-if-you-do-damn-if-you-don’t manoeuvring, rating agencies are downgrading government credibility, and the administration has to frequently fend off rumours about printing money out of thin air, fuelled by virtual controls over foreign and gold reserves and lack of outside supervision.

Through all these, Brics’ push for a new global economic system trading primarily in gold-backed money with US dollar swept to the sidelines gained strength. It is no longer a pipe dream and the economic rise of China has helped the momentum greatly. (Economic experts don’t see US hostility towards Beijing as being driven by human rights concern. They believe issues like Taiwan, South China Sea or Huawei are showdowns with the competition between US dollar and Chinese yuan in the backdrop.)

Thailand, depending on who we are talking about, is open towards Brics. Last year, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha delivered a speech via a teleconference at the 14th Brics Summit chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Brics is essentially a group of major emerging economies whose membership comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Thailand (some agreed and others didn’t) joined the Brics meeting as a member of the 13 Emerging Markets and Developing Countries (EMDCs). The upcoming will handle the much-anticipated issue of who will be new members as well.

We can see that whoever are in charge of the next Thai government, their attitudes toward Brics will be very significant, and a lot more so if next week produces something earth-chattering. According to Thanong Khanthong, one of Thailand’s most-respected economic analysts and a former business editor, the possibility of gold-backed money replacing “paper money” led by US dollar is real and changes might come a lot sooner than people think.

August 13, 2023: Srettha Thavisin suggested the other day his party would be here to stay, as diluting the colours would take time, but there’s another big reason why the Pheu Thai Party does not want its potential government to die soon.

“We will accept whatever happens after four years,” said leading red-shirt activist Sombat Thongyoi. “What matters is now.”

That seems to be the thinking of the party he supports. If the new government crumbles soon, the next election will most likely see a massive anti-Pheu Thai backlash. The party will want to wait out the public wrath, which is substantial at the moment but nobody knows for certain how big.

Pheu Thai and Move Forward were neck and neck in constituency contests in the last general election. It was the popular vote that led to the 10-seat difference. The margin could expand if a new general election was held now. Simply put, if Srettha becomes prime minister, signing a House dissolution would be tantamount to signing a suicide note.

Pheu Thai apparently hopes time will heal. The thinking has to be that if the anti-Pheu Thai sentiment remains as strong after four years, then so be it.

If it becomes the government at Move Forward’s expense, Pheu Thai will need to hang on. A glimmer of hope is in the fact that Move Forward’s Bangkok sweep would not get any bigger, constituency-speaking. What Pheu Thai has to fear is the popular vote, which if coupled with the natural anti-incumbent feeling, could be deadly.

Ironically, Pheu Thai might need the pro-establishment sentiment that gave the new-born United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) Party the second runner-up award in terms of popular vote on May 14 to get stronger. That could hopefully keep the rising Move Forward trend in check.

August 12, 2023: Reading between the lines, Pheu Thai’s main prime ministerial candidate seems to be implying that his party will not be leading an ad hoc or unstable coalition that will be short-lived.

When asked if his potential government could “take the country out of the current (political) abyss”, Srettha Thavisin said: “I’m confident that every party that has or will become our partner understands the problems _ be it public well-being, constitutional or ideological. We understand them well, so the intention of getting together is to solve those problems and make the nation progress.”

It’s admittedly a promising statement, if we take away the reasons why Srettha’s party has to be with the present and prospective partners in the first place.

He was also asked if Pheu Thai’s goals and methods would be the same as when the party was confident of a landslide. In other words, he was asked how he was so certain that the other partners shared the same objectives and paths toward them.

“Three months will have been the longest Thailand has ever taken to form a post-election government,” he said. “I’m confident that (when the dust settles) everyone’s thoughts or ideas or plans will have been crystalised. Everyone realises how hard it will be if people don’t help one another. It’s the duty of government leaders to make the country go as one. I believe that every party is concerned about the nation (regardless of its ideology).”

The statement is great. But the timing is not quite so. If the statement had been made under different circumstances, for example a Pheu Thai landslide, it would have been one of the best political messages the world has ever heard.

August 11, 2023: Arguably the most controversial Pheu Thai policy may be set for a grand comeback, at least for another bout of heated debate.

The “digital wallet” plan was buried under the debris of election upset, as Pheu Thai needed to let Move Forward lead the way. But now, according to the second biggest party which trumpeted the policy during the election campaign while hoping for a landslide, the situation has changed.

“The context is different today regarding who will be responsible for the well-being of Thais,” said Pheu Thai’s deputy secretary-general Paophum Rojanasakul. “Our party’s economic team has done its homework, and we will deal with any (negative) impact.”

The debate will resurface nonetheless. To different people, Bt10,000 (subject to adjustments) is worth differently. In other words, one rural man can use it stockpile food for a year or longer, while people like real estate tycoon and Pheu Thai’s prime ministerial nominee Srettha Thavisin will find it totally insufficient for one night out. Why the two groups should be entitled to the same government generosity or charity is the crux of the controversy.

Pheu Thai insists all men have “equal rights” as stated by the Constitution, and that the digital money is limited by boundaries and expiry dates.

Srettha had been using that argument a lot during the election campaign, as he is a strong advocate of the policy himself. But to those unconvinced, giving that much money to anyone aged 16 or older in Thailand is the same as sending free milk to the most affluent schools or giving free education to children of families that shop in glamorous European malls every year. If Pheu Thai becomes the next government and the digital money policy goes on as it original draft, Srettha would get that money too.

August 10, 2023: If Move Forward joins senators in rejecting a prime ministerial nominee of the Pheu Thai Party, Thailand’s political turmoil will be taken to a whole new level.

Pheu Thai has asked both camps for support, citing democratic principles. And while a senatorial veto of the kind that sent Pita Limjaroenrat crashing will be heavily criticised again, it will have been expected. Move Forward, on the other hand, will have more explaining to do if its MPs vote “No” or abstained.

Move Forward’s awkwardness prior to the vote will be more blatant if neither of the “uncles’ parties” is included in the Pheu Thai coalition. Bhumjaithai is in the Prayut government, of course, but the party houses no “uncle”.

One Move Forward’s plausible excuse is that Bhumjaithai’s stand on Article 112 is something Pita’s party does not approve of. However, Move Forward will be asked the following question: If the only way to “switch off the uncles” is for Pheu Thai to marry Bhumjaithai, will you support that way?

The rope will be extremely tight. Move Forward will be required to act in the best interest of democracy. It’s a no-brainer which will benefit democracy more _ amending Article 112 or enabling a prime ministerial nominee from a large political party to rule.

Pheu Thai, Move Forward may say, is asserting its right to rule under a “twisted” system. However, critics can say that whether the system would become “more twisted” is up in no small measure to Move Forward.

August 9, 2023: With Article 112 and Move Forward out of the government-formation equation, the next time senators vote to select the prime minister will be very interesting.

The Pheu Thai Party has announced the freshly-created union of eight parties to form a new government, which excludes Move Forward, whose policies regarding Thailand’s highest institution provided the Senate with ammunition to veto.

In addition to the two core parties, Pheu Thai and Bhumjaithai, the other parties agreeing to join the coalition are Prachachat, Thai Liberal, Chart Pattana Kla, Pheu Thai Rumphalang, Plung Sungkom Mai and Thongthee Thai. In a statement, Pheu Thai claimed that the alliance now commands more than half of the 500 seats in the House of Representatives. That would put the Senate in a very awkward situation if it wants to stage another blockade, albeit to prevent this coalition’s prime ministerial nominee from getting to the minimum 376 parliamentary votes.

August 8, 2023: While the announced marriage with the Bhumjaithai Party is just the first baby step of Thailand’s second biggest party into uncharted territory, the treacherous path is irreversible all the same.

Although Pheu Thai leader Cholanan Srikaew insisted the “Uncles parties” were not in consideration, Bhumjaithai was obviously meant to test the waters. After all, Pheu Thai had said the same about Bhumjaithai before the general election.

The combined 212 House of Representatives seats of Pheu Thai and Bhumjaithai are far from the 376 votes needed to have a prime minister installed. The “new core” will need a lot more parties, a lot of “cobras” and a substantial volume of senatorial support.

And Pheu Thai cannot get back to Move Forward, the biggest party, not after the Bhumjaithai press conference that further infuriated Pita Limjaroenrat’s fans.

Move Forward, Palang Pracharath and Ruam Thai Sang Chart (United Thai Nation) are practically sitting on the fence saying “Let’s see how you can manage without us.” The first party will not get senatorial backing. The last two will, and any of them can, but if it comes to that, the Bhumjaithai tumult will be just a small bump in the road.

August 7, 2023: Srettha Thavisin’s defamation lawsuit against Chuwit Kamolvisit is coinciding with the re-emergence of another land controversy, which involves someone Move Forward may want to distant itself from but has been unable to do it.

As busy as Srettha’s lawyer are police and prosecutors grappling with the long-delayed case concerning bribery accusations against Sakulthorn Juangroonruangkit, the younger brother of the man who virtually gave political birth to Pita Limjaroenrat, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

To cut a long story short, Sakulthorn, as the financial chief of a high-profile property firm practically owned by the Juangroongruangkit family, paid 20 million baht to two persons convicted of fraud. The two convicts were found guilty of planning to use the money to bribe someone at the Crown Property Bureau so that the firm could buy a piece of highly-lucrative plot of land at the heart of Bangkok without having to bid. The two convicts have served their jail punishment but Sakulthorn had insisted he had been duped by them and never had intention to pay bribes. Under pressure, police were forced to find possible evidence linking Sakulthorn to bribery.

The long-dormant case against Sakulthorn, a major political time-bomb a couple of years ago, is being revived, because Bt20 million is no small money and any business executive would not have paid that amount without foreseeing a major “progress” of a project he or she was nurturing. How the case transpires will further complicate the already-messy Thai political developments as everyone knows that Move Forward is deeply associated with Thanathorn.

Several major political changes in Thailand followed high-profile troubles with the land. A Democrat-led government crumbled in the 1980s after some politicians of the ruling party were accused of grabbing plots earmarked for the poor in the South under a land reform programme. Thaksin Shinawatra fled a jail sentence in 2000s after the Ratchadapisek land controversy had blown up in his face. The Juangroongruangkit family, apart from the Bangkok land controversy, has also been rocked with a problematic issue of “forest” land.

Srettha is only being welcomed to the club.

August 6, 2023: Ambivalence is spreading like wildfire, and Move Forward seems to be the only one standing its ground, albeit controversially and, some might say, suspiciously.

It started with Thai Liberal Party Sereepisuth Temeeyaves slamming extremism within Move Forward’s support, followed by the continued changing of Thaksin Shinawatra’s return date, the softening of the Pheu Thai ideological stand which triggered compromising attitudes all around within the “parties of the uncles”. The Democrats are the latest to undergo tumultuous soul-searching.

Former Democrat leader and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai has suggested that a formal decision has not been made on joining a possible Pheu Thai government coalition. “This particular issue, according to party regulations, requires a party resolution (which has not been made yet),” Chuan said. “So, anyone saying we should do this or that is just voicing his or her personal opinion.”

The party is looking for a new leader after another election humiliation yet. And the new leadership will reflect the eventual party stand regarding the question whether it should have a political marriage with Pheu Thai. Party members are being at one another’s throat. After all, until just a few years ago, Thailand’s political crisis primarily had to do with the Democrat-Pheu Thai irreconcilability.

There are those super-tired of the divide, and there are others believing that oil can never mix with water so it must be one liquid or the other.

Not just the politicians, though. We haven’t even mentioned the public and politically-biased media outlets yet.

August 5, 2023: Thaksin Shinawatra’s latest tweet postponing his promised return to Thailand cited a doctor appointment, which apparently nobody in the world believed.

Observers said small fires lit by angry Move Forward fans in protest of Pheu Thai were the true cause of the postponement. There was also an abundance of furious content on the social media. Thaksin, many thought, must be more concerned about Pheu Thai’s health than his own. Therefore, the medical check-up claim sounded very thin indeed.

The tweet went like this: “I’d like to postpone my return to Thailand from the 10th by no more than two weeks. The exact time will be notified soon. My doctor wants to do a check-up on me krub.”

Thailand’s buildings may not be as tall as in Dubai, but doctors surely are as qualified. If it is a routine check-up, it certainly does not make sense. One only rational explanation was that Thaksin needs a follow-up medical treatment of a disease, a practice that requires familiarity with a patient’s records and etc. But nobody has heard he has had any big health problem.

August 4, 2023: The man who months ago had faced a constitutional question of whether he was staying too long smirked most of the time when asked to comment about the need for him to stay longer, thanks in no small part to those who had wanted him gone.

“I have no advice to give,” said Prayut Chan-o-cha at Don Muang when asked by reporters what should be done about the ongoing political delay preventing the formation of a new government. “Everyone is an expert.”

Is it all right for you to be in the caretaker position longer? “No problem,” he replied. The prime minister added, however, that while routine government work was unaffected, some fledging projects might be impacted.

Have you talked to Gen Prawit (Wongsuwan) since it became clear Gen Prawit was back in the middle of the prime ministerial race? To this, Prayut only shrugged and then walked away to his convoy.

August 3, 2023: The Constitutional Court’s pending decision on Pita Limjaroenrat’s nomination, the Pheu Thai-Move Forward peculiar standoff, the Thaksin uncertainties, the ongoing “Should-we-stay-or-should-we-go?” soul-searching of the military bigwigs and all unthinkable possibilities concerning the future government and opposition will keep everyone painfully on edge, including all Thais, whether they are political enthusiasts or politically weary.

Everything is linked together in a crazy web of interconnections. And everyone is waiting for everyone else to go first. This has resulted in an omnipresent agony which seems to be lasting forever.

August 2, 2023: The possibility that the Constitutional Court could throw Pita Limjaroenrat a lifeline has seemingly prevented the Pheu Thai Party from fully reasserting itself as the new government-forming core.

That is a pro-Move Forward scenario. The worst-case theory when Move Forward is concerned is that Pheu Thai has been acting strangely lately regarding meeting schedules among its allies because the party has something up its sleeve.

The court’s decision on whether Pita could be re-nominated could end it right there for him or, if it goes the other way, might just delay his pain.

The senatorial deadlock requires many more months to unravel. Even if Pita can get re-nominated, the vacuum can be too long for a lot of people. Not the current caretaker government, though.

August 1, 2023: The following are some facts that may keep optimism in check regarding self-driven cars and the latest developments coming out of South Korea.

First, if the moon landing was real as the vast majority of the world believes, humans went to the closest celestial neighbour decades ago, with essentially robotic or computerised guidance and technology far from divine like today’s. Then, we have become bored for years with military missiles that could fly across continents with great precision and without any human “driver”, on board at least. Drones were born years ago, and the military ones are zigzagging in the skies behind enemies’ lines with the kind of mobility that would put previous Star Wars movies to shame.

In addition, as we are sound asleep on the plane, our lives are safely in the hands of auto-pilots most of the time. Even cars that require human driving are made largely by machines from start to finish. Also decades ago, some UK cities started experimenting with low-speed, self-driving shuttles on streets fairly close to regular traffic. In America, some states passed laws allowing driverless cars to be on the roads with more states set to follow suit.

And how did they build and how do they control the James Webb Space Telescope taking pictures of galaxies formed at the beginning of the universe?

South Korea, welcome on board. Long overdue, but better late than never. The country plans to release its Level 3-autonomous driving vehicle in 2023 that is capable of driving without human operation. Years ago, German automaker Daimler has tested its very first self-driven truck. At that time, people in Canada got very excited because drivers in Ontario were told they could be sharing roads with driverless cars. Also at the same time, Singapore was reportedly keen on self-driving vehicles, a “great solution” to its limited space, thinning supply of drivers and increasingly-challenged transport facilities. On YouTube, clips of mouth-watering exhibits of cars that can drive themselves have been there for ages.

Considering all of the above, why has it been so slow? There are two main reasons. Like it or not, technological advancement that the world enjoys nowadays owes a lot to human urge to out-kill one another, and that is why public interests are always secondary to military advancement. The second reason is the oil politics and the obscene amount of money in the veins of the orthodox auto industry.

Take into account the ear-splitting international alarms over climate change and the whole situation is even more absurd. Self-driven cars will greatly encourage car-sharing, reducing the number of vehicles as the urge to own cars will presumably become a lot less intense.

It’s not fear of accidents that is keeping the progress extremely slow. In fact, computerised driving is a lot safer than human operations. Somewhere and somehow, some people face huge losses if self-driven cars become the norm. This is why this ride toward the future is going at a snail’s pace.

 

 

Daily updates of major local and international news by Tulsathit Taptim