Thailand, not Prayut, faces moment of truth

September 29, 2022: The question is not whether the prime minister would be allowed to carry on, but whether the Constitutional Court verdict, whatever it is, will be peacefully accepted, a prerequisite for a normal, long-term and undisrupted national progress.

By “peacefully accepted”, it means many things. If Prayut Chan-o-cha is disqualified, his supporters will need to redefine what they have long considered ways for “better politics” in which democracy is honest, transparent and genuinely fair. Coups have failed on many fronts, and even some of those against it seem to have condoned bloodshed associated with efforts to fight taking powers by force. Such bloodbath is of “chicken and egg” nature. Without coups, blood would not have been spilled, many will argue. Others will point at the fact that “innocent blood” has been spilled due largely to attempts to fight consequences of coups.

If he is allowed by the judges to continue serving, his haters will also need to review their means. Short cuts are always risky as violence often lurks and courts opportunism. Patience and honesty are keys, without which ones can turn into their own enemies.

True democracy is the most complex thing. A famous phrase by anti-coup people is “Two wrongs don’t make it right” (meaning if coup is intended to fight corruption, it’s just one “wrong” added to the other and what we get is accumulation of “wrongs”.) But such a phrase is for those opposed to the coup, too. Only “right” democracy can keep coup away from Thailand. Corrupt democracy, in other words “wrong democracy”, will do the exact opposite.

September 28, 2022: If strictly enforced, tough measures controlling prospective election candidates’ spending as the House of Representatives enters its final 180 days could yield unexpected results at the national poll, analysts say.

For decades, electoral hopefuls, in their attempts to increase their popularity, have relied on semblances of charity spending involving donations of various forms or money in the envelops to grooms and brides, funeral hosts or housewarming organisers. Financially supporting rural activities have been ingrained in Thai politics and greatly influenced election results.

The “180 days restriction” is new and will make those “aides” a lot harder to provide. It has made a lot of politicians cry foul, particularly as the flooding season and economic hardships associated with COVID-19 are causing or will cause widespread sufferings as well as opportunities for popularity-seeking figures.

With gratitude being a key characteristic of rural Thai communities, being able to or unable to help sufferers at times of their crises is a major political factor, analysts say.

“A lot of politicians and parties will be shackled by the new prohibitions,” said Nuttawut Wongnium, a lawyer whose comments on politics were often sought, was quoted by the mainstream media as saying. “Many goals will be difficult.”

September 27, 2022: Even as England hovers at the brink of a major economic crisis, western media’s biggest headlines are about the world facing a much more serious matter, with the Ukraine war on a “highly-dangerous” tipping point.

England’s developing news is an economic nightmare of a grand, global scale, but it has been overshadowed by fears that “sham” referendum results in war-torn parts of Ukraine could give Vladimir Putin annexation excuses which would “allow” him to use more formidable weapons.

“Moscow’s threat is clearly nuclear”, said CNN in an analytical piece, which stated that at some point this week, the Kremlin will likely declare that voting in four partially occupied areas of Ukraine have delivered a mandate for swift assimilation into what Moscow calls Russian territory.

Putin had warned last week that Russia would “make use of all weapon systems available” if needed. That was seen as a response to NATO’s “threats”.

It was against a backdrop of the UK government’s decision to implement the biggest tax cuts in 50 years while borrowing tens of billions of dollars to subsidize soaring energy costs this winter, a situation greatly related to the Ukraine situation. London’s move is seen as a massive gamble that’s already sending shockwaves through global financial markets.

The British pound has plunged a staggering 21% against the dollar this year, a turmoil accelerated by investors racing the dump UK government bonds as they worry about the extra £72 billion ($77 billion) in borrowing due before April.

September 26, 2022: One of the most defining moments in Thailand’s five-set woman volleyball thriller against Turkey on Sunday came in the fifth and decisive set, when, as the scores were tied at 11-11, Thai player Pornpun Gerdpard turned around during a timeout and gave the live-broadcast camera a funny smile.

It calmed down nerves. It reminded her teammates (as if that was necessary) that they must keep doing what had gotten them this far. It told edge-of-their-seats Thai fans back home to relax and just enjoy the ride.

It was a big risk, too. Turkey were a few points away from making that funny smile a very ridiculous thing subjected to heavy criticism by Thai “gurus” and fans alike. But it’s a risk that everyone associated with this amazing volleyball team must be willing to take.

Make no mistake, Pornpun was not the only giggly Thai players. They all were. They laughed when falling awkwardly after a failed block. When the block was successful, they danced a silly dance. They jumped like kids on trampoline for the first time after winning points. How could the Turkish players, who looked like their serious elder sisters the whole match, compete with that? That moment by Pornpun just embodies a key characteristic of the Thai team.

Also make no mistake, results will keep swinging. The Thais’ relatively-small physique means their giant-killing days will be alternated with “normal service resumed” moments of the giants. But one thing is rather apparent: If they were as physically tall as US or Chinese players, they would manage to rule the world.

September 25, 2022: If the latest NIDA poll is accurate, Paetongtarn Shinawatra shouldn’t be too happy despite maintaining her popularity lead among unofficial prime ministerial candidates, Pita Limjaroenrat has also seen a drop in his approval rating although he remains her closest opponent, and Prayut Chan-o-cha is more popular than Sudarat Keyuraphan.

All of the above has to do with the undecided section of the Thai populace edging Paetongtarn to the top. The table reads like this after a survey of 2,500 Thais between September 15 and 21:  The undecided group is 24.16%, Pheu Thai’s Paetongtarn 21.60%, Move Forward leader Pita 10.56%, Prayut 10.12%, and Sudarat 9.12%.

In fact, while Prayut’s rating is also dropping, his is more stable than Paetongtarn’s and Pita’s when the previous NIDA survey is taken into account. In that survey, Paetongtarn was 25.28%, easily leading the undecided group which had 18.68%. Pita was 13.24% and Prayut was 11.68%. Sudarat is the only one who has seen a jump in the new survey, because her previous rating was 6.80%.

As far as political parties are concerned, undecided voters also are at the top (28.86%), followed by Pheu Thai at 25.89% and Move Forward at 16.24%. These seem to mirror the individual ratings. In the previous survey, Pheu Thai was a staggering 36.36%, comfortably leading the undecided section which had 18.68%. In the same previous survey, Move Forward had 17.88%.

September 24, 2022: The next few days will be tense for everyone _ political parties, the media, the Thai public. A few politicians are also having a soul-searching to do.

If the Constitutional Court says Prayut Chan-o-cha can carry on, the soul-searching will not be necessary. If not, guys like Prawit Wongsuwan and Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was the Democrat Party’s prime ministerial candidate when this Parliament was born, will have to think really hard.

Prawit, whose Palang Pracharath Party supported Prayut as an “outsider” prime ministerial nominee in the last general election, will have to decide if he wanted to become an “outsider” nominee himself. The Palang Pracharath leader will have to weigh the temptation against the certainty that the next few months or the last few months of the government will be very stormy with him at the helm.

Prawit, currently not in a good shape himself, may want to lie low, avoid more dirt, and thus save himself for the election, whose prospects are already not good. Or he will just say “Forget it. My chances next year are next to impossible anyway.”

If he chooses to conclude that these past few days are good enough for his life CV, it may leave just Abhisit and Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul. The former has made public his intention to show his dislike of Prayut and responsibility for the humiliation the Democrat Party had to go through in the last election, but he is getting remaining fans excited. The latter has done everything except declining the hot seat if he has to take it.

September 23, 2022: If you are a politician, hot mic can be your worst enemy. Just ask South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, the latest victim.

International relations could become messier as well. In a video published by South Korean television broadcaster MBC on its official YouTube channel on Thursday, Yoon was walking along the stage after chatting with US leader Joe Biden at a conference for the Global Fund in New York a day earlier. The South Korean president appeared to tell his aides: “It would be so embarrassing for Biden if those @#$%^& at the National Assembly don’t approve this [bill].”

The subject was understood to be the US government’s pledge to contribute $6 billion to the Global Fund.

Welcome to the hot mic party, it has to be said. Biden himself was a previous guest, when he was overheard earlier this year murmuring when a journalist inquired about inflation: “What a stupid son of a @#$%&”

If the leader of the free world could call a member of a major element of democracy so _ a fumble that was forgotten in a hurry _ Yoon Suk Yeol may not have to worry too much.

September 22, 2022: What is left to say about Roger Federer’s on-court balletic grace, awe and devastation of opponents that is not being said at the moment? Maybe that’s the biggest compliment for the man. People always divide opinions when it comes to what they do, but when it comes to the retiring former World Number One, everybody is in unison. Different adjectives and nouns maybe, but the very same meaning.

Some tennis stars may have or will have won more Grand Slams but they will be the first to admit that they can’t match him in terms of being poetry in motion while playing. The World loves seeing them play but it will say wholeheartedly that when Federer is concerned, it’s a privilege to have a chance to watch him hit that backhand or simply throw the ball up in the air for the serve.

Be happy in retirement.

September 21, 2022: Western nations have condemned, mocked and belittled Moscow’s plans to hold urgent “referendums” in parts of Ukraine that are currently under Russian control. It was a travesty, they say, although war is a bigger sham and every powerful nations cannot be proud of their own historical records, be it recent or distant.

The referendum votes have been called by Russian-backed officials in four Ukrainian regions to see whether those areas should become part of Russia.

The US, Germany and France have strongly criticised the idea and immediately vowed not to recognise the results of such “shameful” ballots. NATO has made public its thinking that the Russian plans spelt an escalation in the war.

Targeted referendum areas include Plans to run polls the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk – as well as Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south. The areas represent around 15% of Ukrainian territory – or around the size of Hungary, according to Reuters.

September 20, 2022: Arguably the biggest household name a decade ago, Suthep Thaugsuban has survived serious charges with anything but a bang, and for now looks like a political has-been thankful for a great escape rather than a militant politician he used to be.

Media attention to the Supreme Court dropping of the charges related to police station construction contracts was lukewarm, as the focus is firmly on the man he mobilized hundreds of thousands against during the heyday of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. The uprising against the Yingluck government, which he called Thaksin Shinawatra’s proxy, was massive and followed by Prayut Chan-o-cha’s coup. But if Pheu Thai is to return to power and if it faces renewed street protests at any point, leading fights against it is likely to be somebody else.

An obviously-relieved Suthep gave a long interview, which could be summed up as follows: He will not run for election; Thailand is guarded by sacred powers; He has faced corruption charges the way politicians should (fighting in court in preparation for any verdict); His shrinking movement doesn’t know if Prayut’s tenure will be constitutionally terminated, so he can’t say whom he (Suthep) would support as the next prime minister.

September 19, 2022: The man in Dubai is full of pity marking the day he was ousted in a Thai coup 16 years ago.

Following is his “It’s a pity …” Facebook post:

It’s a pity that instead of being able to live under the “People’s Constitution”, Thais now have to live under a dictatorial Constitution.

It’s a pity that Thailand doesn’t have a glorious place in the world community any longer.

It’s a pity that I could have made poverty disappear from Thailand.

It’s a pity that people who were in the same level with Thais have gone too far ahead while Thais keep struggling to make ends meet.

It’s a pity that the Suvarnabhumi airport has lost its aviation hub potential despite its great Asean location.

It’s a pity that it’s easier for our children to find narcotic drugs than chewing gum.

It’s a pity that flooding has been painfully repetitive because of poor water management.

It’s a pity that the Thai bureaucracy which was undergoing reform has come back to being something whose service Thais have to beg for.

It’s a pity that Thailand has been more indebted because of government mismanagement and household debts have reached a point where it’s impossible to clear.

There. He saves his best taunt at the Thai military for last, though. “Soldiers are (at best) heads of security guards employed to watch over assets. They are not CEOs or ones who can run the country, as they are only capable of spending money, not finding it.”

Prepare for “Come back to face your jail term first” responses from the other side. And, in case you missed it, his “People’s Constitution” comment skipped the fact that he was convicted under a mechanism prescribed by that charter.

September 18, 2022: Legal measures against vote buying are always welcome, but when people suffering from natural disasters and needing urgent help are concerned, they can be disruptive.

According to the Thai rules, politicians’ spending can be considered vote buying when the four-year term of the House of Representatives enters its last 180 days. That means from September 24 onwards, prospective election candidates have to be extremely-discreet spenders fully aware of electoral limits.

That is good in many ways for obvious reasons, but this is also a flooding season where a lot of people are, or will be, in need of immediate and probably large-scale assistance. Adding to that is the COVID-19 situation which has crippled many families.

The politicians can help anonymously, of course, but, as we know or politically speaking, they would prefer to make public where the aid is coming from.

September 17, 2022: Ukraine’s recent counter-offensive that seems to cause Russia setbacks will not change Moscow’s plans, Vladimir Putin seems to have suggested in his first public comments on the matter.

Over the past few days, news about Ukrainian forces recapturing territories covering over 8,000 sq km (3,088 sq miles) in the north-eastern Kharkiv region has dominated world headlines. But Putin said he was not in a hurry, and the offensive in Ukraine’s Donbas region remains on track. In what could be an admission of negative developments, or threats of stepped-up military action, he also noted that Russia had so far not deployed its full forces.

“Our offensive operation in the Donbas is not stopping. They’re moving forward – not at a very fast pace – but they are gradually taking more and more territory,” he said after a summit in Uzbekistan. “…I remind you that the Russian army isn’t fighting in its entirety… Only the professional army is fighting.”

The man has rarely left Russia since the war began. This week’s visit to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Samarkand – where he met the Chinese leader Xi Jinping – highlights something ominous if we really think about it. His need to foster ties with Asian countries after being sidelined by the West could aggravate unwanted divisions that were always the hallmark of past global nightmares. But it would be unfair to blame him alone.

September 16, 2022: What happened in Parliament this week may not seem that explosive as of now, but it was a solid piece of evidence that the fights for and against wholesale constitutional changes would intensify rather than ease off when the new government is in place.

Due to a lack of quorum, the House of Representatives this week did not effectively pass a Move Forward idea to conduct a referendum on the general election day to find out if the Thai public would like a totally-new charter. But House support seemed in favour of such a national survey, which requires a Cabinet backing to materialise.

A new referendum may answer a lot of questions. The referendum that endorsed the present Constitution may be controversial, but the one that would re-affirm or question its worthiness will be far less so. The former referendum took place when Thailand was under a full-scale military rule, as opposed to the current situation, when the country is a lot freer, has gone through inside-and-out debate on key national issues, and very much needs peaceful arbitration to guard against threats of violence that always lurk over the past few years.

But a new referendum would be the first of many new flashpoints. Whatever the result, it looks like the issue of charter amendment will continue to haunt Thai politics in the years to come.

September 15, 2022: Political partners disagree with one another all the time, so occasional fighting over toys is no big deal. However, when conflicts concern the essence of one party or what it stands for, it’s another matter entirely.

The House of Representatives pouring cold water on Bhumjaithai’s idea of cannabis legalization today adds to a bumpy relationship between the party and its government coalition allies after an earlier hiccup concerning the Skytrain contract extension.

Everyone knows cannabis legalization is Bhumjaithai’s lifeblood, its political selling point. Considering the future circumstances, this could be its only chance of pushing for it with a great weight. The party is unlikely to be in an equally good position regarding the issue after the next election.

The party has allies to frown on, because the opposition bloc has to do its opposition “duties”. This means that, apart from bemoaning the major setback to its key policy of legally reclassifying cannabis, Bhumjaithai will be forced to reclassify its friends as well.

September 14, 2022: What do the 2011 flood catastrophe and this year’s mini crisis in Bangkok’s suburbs have in common? The answer: A Bangkok governor and government authorities in opposing political camps who are accusing each other of being responsible.

Opposition MPs, government MPs, pro-government activists, anti-government activists, supporters of the Bangkok governor, his critics, his detractors and so-called academics and experts on both sides are making it a spectacular political blame game.

This is what opponents of the government are saying: “With rains like this, there’s nothing even God can do, let alone a governor.” “Check out the accumulation of city planning messes. The flooding is eventual.” “The governor has done his best, but is facing slow action by the government.” “The budget doesn’t match the immensity of Bangkok’s problems.”

This is what the other side is saying: “So much for ‘I have studied Bangkok issues inside and out for years’/” “It rained like this every year.” “Playing the ‘conspiracy’ card is an admission that it’s bad.” “What about blaming a man instead of calling equipment old and deeming weather forecast unreliable?”

To be fair to Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt, he did try to distance himself from the Pheu Thai Party during his election campaign. But past connections and current cutthroat political rivalry immediately sucked him right into the ideological standoff since he won the landslide election. And there is no way back now. The best he can do is praying that it won’t get worse and that Lat Krabang is just a bad luck or bad blip.

September 13, 2022: A minute’s silence for Queen Elizabeth II should be observed at Anfield in a matter of hours. But how is the biggest question.

English football authorities have cancelled domestic competitions to show respect for the late Queen, but Liverpool versus Ajax is a European fixture that the British Football Association has no control over. It is expected that a minute’s silence will be approved and practiced before the kick-off.

Sections of Liverpool’s support booed the national anthem before the FA Cup and Carabao Cup finals at Wembley earlier this year, raising questions and concern over how a tribute to the monarch’s death would transpire at Anfield.

Links were also made between a far-right nationalist group and a banner flown over the Etihad Stadium during a Liverpool clash with Manchester City in April. The group, named Patriotic Alternative, reportedly claims that ‘native British people’ will become a minority by the year 2066. They claimed responsibility for posting leaflets in letter boxes and handing them out in town centres across the North West last weekend.

In short, different origins and volatile history make nationalism and patriotism complicated matters in England, not least among fans of football clubs that are seeing fewer and fewer domestic stars shining in their stadiums.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, a German, said a minute’s silence was, in his thought, “the right thing to do”. But he, as usual, chose to stay away from English politics.

“I think it is the right thing to do but I don’t think our people need any kind of advice from me for showing respect,” said Klopp on the proposed silence. “There are plenty of examples where our people showed exactly the right respect. One which surprised me and I was really proud of that moment was last season when we played Manchester United around a very sad situation with Cristiano Ronaldo’s family. And that is what I expect. For me, it is clear that’s what we have to do.”

September 12, 2022: The government’s virtual top legal spokesman has said that if the House of Representatives is to be dissolved in the event that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is no longer qualified for the top job, a successor elected by Parliament should do it.

“For the umpteenth time, in theory, a caretaker prime minister can dissolve the House,” Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said. “In practice, that is anything but easy. A lot of things have to be taken into consideration.” The best way to go would be for Parliament to elect Prayut’s successor, in case the current prime minister can no longer serve, who will then should decide what to do, according to Wissanu.

He cited the aftermath of the May Crisis in 1992 when a caretaker prime minister could have dissolved the House but didn’t, choosing instead to wait for a formally installed prime minister to do it.

September 11, 2022: Controversial politician Plodprasop Suraswadi of the biggest opposition party has asked if there were “political motives” behind clogged waterways and suspicious movements of waters that are posing problems for the current Bangkok governor and will do the same for the next government.

“I’m wondering who were behind the arrival of waters from the Pa Sak Dam and the Nakhon Nayok to the Rangsit area and what political agendas they are having,” Plodprasop, former deputy prime minister in the Yingluck government, posted on his Facebook.

That was one of several suspicious incidents he claimed in the post, titled: “Who caused today’s flooding?”

It could be a blame game as well, as Plodprasop also indicated that government panic caused by the huge flooding during the Yingluck administration led to poor decisions and mismanagement of water in dams or reservoirs. He insisted that urgent policy reviews were needed because flooding at the moment is “unnatural”.

Without a policy change, the next government will inherit something very unpopular, he said.

September 10, 2022: When the one chasing you keeps closing the gap, your leading position is not something to be proud of.

In the latest E-Saan poll, surveying 1,065 people, Paetongtarn Shinawatra is breathing on the neck of Sudarat Keyuraphan, or 23.4% versus 21.1% in terms of popularity to be exact. Just a few weeks ago, it was 25.8% against 19.8%. In a little bit more distant past, Thai Sang Thai’s prime ministerial candidate Sudarat was at 30.6% and Paetongtarn at 10.7%.

Another one who should be worried, but not as much, is Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat, who drops to the third place in the latest E-Saan poll (20.2%). He was second in earlier surveys but his support percentages were more stable than Sudarat’s and Paetongtarn’s, hovering around 19-20%.

Prayut Chan-o-cha at 12.5% in the latest E-Saan poll was not too disheartening actually, considering it was a northeastern survey. He was around 14% in earlier E-Saan polls, and easily outshone coalition partners like Anutin Charnvirakul and Jurin Laksanawisit then and now.

E-Saan poll is conducted by Khon Kaen University researchers and is considered a major surveyor in the region.

September 9, 2022: The prevalence of texts, cartoons and videos making fun of Queen Elizabeth II does not hide the fact that she has been well-loved and respected. Hers was a long and winding journey, and it was the same for England.

During her long reign, which was not without great controversies, gossips or rumours, she was a big part of a struggle of nationalism to break free from the monarchy. Under her, the shadow of past imperial misgovernance complicated yet hurried the transition from empire to commonwealth and confused much of the world about British identity. Scottish nationalism and conflict in Northern Ireland threatened to undermine what her ancestors had fought steadfastly for.

Even today, the confusion, irony and complication remain in great amounts. Liz Truss perhaps embodies the not-so-rosy course England has been taking.

The new British leader is among 15 prime ministers formally appointed by her. Truss took office on Tuesday after traveling to Balmoral Castle in Scotland to meet with the ailing queen.

Last-minute political attacks on Truss before she took the country’s helm focused on her anti-monarchy past. Over the past several days, videos have surfaced of Truss as a teenage university student denouncing the institution of the monarchy. The young Truss said she was “against the idea that people can be born to rule. That people — because of the family they’re born into — should be able to be the head of state of our country: I think that’s disgraceful.” Last year, similar video footage surfaced of Labour leader Keir Starmer joking that he “used to propose the abolition of the monarchy.”

Truss has apparently changed her thinking, even before the overwhelming outpouring of love and respect for Queen Elizabeth II should dictate that she must. The new political leader, like many, must have come to learn that awe, adoration and admiration are earned not by “ideologies” that anyone can proclaim they have, but the true personality that ones assumed.

Our deepest condolences to the British Royal Family.

September 8, 2022: In politics, the power of public sympathy shall never be underestimated. Which is why the party hoping to score a landslide victory in the next general election can use some empathy of the voters.

The Pheu Thai Party usually thrived electorally on anger, resentment and, of course, sympathy. The theory has been proven time and again, probably most notably in the 2011 general election when inexperienced Yingluck Shinawatra led it to an unprecedented groundswell election triumph.

The Constitutional Court today still keeps everyone in suspense. What charter drafters said during one of their meetings before the current Constitution was born is now being sought by the judges. Apparently, the drafters were wondering and debating when the prime minister’s “Day One” should be. A formal statement to the court by the man who supervised the drafting, Meechai Ruchuphan, was rumoured to be in favour of the counting beginning after the charter took effect, but there were also rumours of him saying another thing at that meeting.

A pro-Prayut Constitutional Court ruling and its prequel apparently fit the anger, resentment and sympathy theory. This is why it would not be too bad if the court allowed him to stay on. However, on the other hand, an anti-Prayut verdict can backfire against the biggest opposition party in the next election as well.

With the next election only months away, Pheu Thai is in a strange territory where it wants to hurt Prayut Chan-o-cha but not to a point where he, not itself, would get sizeable public sympathy, and where it must decide if slow but sure is better than fast and furious.

September 7, 2022: Make a good plan before you go out. Arguably, that can be an ordinary friend’s advice, but the overwhelmed Bangkok governor insisted he meant it, after witnessing traffic chaos following heavy rainfalls and hearing from good authorities that it’s not over quite yet.

Flooding and traffic snarls can send a city governor’s approval rating plummeting, and Chadchart Sittipunt is seeing what looks like a good honeymoon period threatened by relentless rainstorms and massively dark and gloomy clouds that gather practically every late afternoon over Bangkok now.

Two more days and it will get better, he said. In the meantime, think hard before planning to go anywhere, the governor insisted.

“Please monitor weather forecasts very closely and plan your travels carefully,” he told Bangkokians. “We at the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration are doing our best, but I have to admit that the rains are quite heavy and I have rarely seen anything like it.”

One big problem, he admitted, is that authorities’ slow responses mean traffic jams already formed when equipment was needed to be brought to affected areas to ease situations. Equipment should have been there beforehand to avoid transportation problems and quicken relief efforts, he explained. The “coordination problem” is being tackled, he said.

September 6, 2022: Analysts believe the Constitutional Court’s fast-track action on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s tenure is meant to make the uncertainty “as brief as possible” and it does not point at the final decision being already in the judges’ minds.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, one of the top legal experts of the government, seemed satisfied with his side’s explanation submitted to the court. If he was surprised by the judges’ scheduled September 8 meeting, it did not show. However, most observers had not expected the court to move this fast.

Yet what can possibly follow the September 8 meeting is the court’s demand for more evidence. Meanwhile, the online world has been awash with what was said to be Meechai Ruchuphan’s written opinion to the court. The key man who oversaw the writing of the 2017 Constitution has reportedly told the judges he thought the charter’s stipulations should take effect on the day the charter took effect.

However, that pro-Prayut argument is not new. But neither is the anti-Prayut one. Therefore, the unexpected Constitutional Court meeting was unlikely to be motivated by either. Rather, it looks like the court’s attempt to bring the saga to an end as soon as possible, the analysts say. If Prayut wins, whatever void there is at the moment shall go away quickly. If he loses, the search for a new prime minister can begin as soon as possible.

September 5, 2022: If this had been a Hollywood thriller, Liz Truss would have just about 30 minutes to plot an escape from an apparently inescapable escape room.

In real life, the woman who is being announced as the new leader of the Conservative Party, and the next prime minister of England, has about a month or so as her country rolls unstoppably toward what many call a looming economic catastrophe.

She is understood to be considering a freeze on energy bills. The BBC quoted her team as saying that “lots of measures” were being considered to prevent her first few months in office a virtual living hell. People will demand “specifics”, not vague promises, her opponents warn.

She faces a spiraling cost-of-living crisis, which includes a scary prediction that average annual energy bills alone are set to rise 80% to £3,549 (approximately $4,180) from October. That would affect much of the country and inflame anger that has lingered against the Conservative government.  On Sunday, speaking on a BBC political show, Truss refused to discuss her plans to tackle rising bills, but added, “I will act if elected as prime minister.”

Analysts call that a traditional brave face. If it’s a honeymoon posture, it can be very, very brief. On the bright side, though, she has nothing to lose. Scraping through will be deemed heroic and failure will not be totally unexpected. In fact, if she dies trying to escape from the formidable escape room, it will be heroic as well.

September 4, 2022: Mikhail Gorbachev’s funeral ceremony lasted only just a few hours on Saturday, probably underlining his controversial reputation at home and abroad and ironically reflecting how short his “legacy” was.

The West hails him for the “end” of the Cold War. At home, a lot of people wish he had never done it. Gorbachev was one of the world’s most popular Two-sides-of-the-same-coin men, as along with the “breakaway” effects of his “democratic” leaning, there was also economic chaos, all contributing to the rises of new strongmen like Vladimir Putin.

The current Russian leader knowingly blamed Gorbachev for the demise of the USSR, reportedly calling it the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, and Putin’s international actions were considered his efforts to restore Russia’s wounded pride. He missed Saturday’s funeral, citing his busy work schedules, and chose to pay his respects to Gorbachev on Thursday by laying a bouquet of roses by the open coffin in Central Clinical Hospital, bowing and making the sign of the cross.

Solemn as it was, the Putin gesture is a slight but very strong piece of evidence that Gorbachev’s legacy is all but short-lived. To add to that, China was not in the picture in the Cold War that Gorbachev helped put an end to. The new Cold War is a lot riskier, more tumultuous, more complex and thus has a bigger potential to stop being “cold” and turn into a real Armageddon. But that’s not Gorbachev’s problem now.

Rest in peace.

September 3, 2022: While all eyes are on Prawit Wongsuwan, Paetongtarn Shinawatra and the Constitutional Court, some should be spared for Somkid Jatusripitak, who is probably silently sneaking onto the stage.

Somkid is reportedly seeking to resign from the position of director and chairman of the Board of Directors of Saha Pathana Inter-Holding Public Company Limited. It’s unclear if his request for resignation due to “engagement in other duties” has been effectively or legally approved, but normally such a request will go through.

The newly-established Sarng Anakot Thai (Building Thailand’s Future) Party has always suggested it would name him as its prime ministerial candidate. That the party is a gathering place of former government big names like Uttama Savanayana and Sontirat Sontijirawong makes the Somkid development an interesting and significant one.

At the very least, news and rumours about him must make election war drums beat louder.

September 2, 2022: Facing difficult midterm voting and Republican threats driven significantly by Donald Trump, the US president has made one of his sharpest political rebukes of overzealous opponents, asking the country to get rid of enemies within before they become something worse.

American elections had used to be about economic numbers, or government programmes or policies that preferred one group more than the other, or rebuilding a “failed” structure at most. It had been usually all about who could make America great again or greater or the greatest. Rivals did not accuse each other of being democracy’s biggest threat.

But in a speech in Philadelphia on Thursday, Joe Biden made a rare move by strongly suggesting that voters would have to make an existential choice. Voting Democratic and you support democracy, but anything shorter than that you will endanger not just America, but also the political system that forms the foundations of much of the world.

Republicans’ blind faith in Trump would only lead to chaos and possibly violence, he said. This section of the population “lives not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies,” he said. “…As I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault.”

Pro-Trump forces “are determined to take this country backwards,” he claimed. “Backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy. No right to contraception, no right to marry who you love. … They promote authoritarian leaders. They fanned the flames of political violence.”

It wasn’t meant to brand all Republican-Americans pro-anarchy, but the line Biden has drawn so far is not crystal clear and can only get blurrier when elections draw nearer. Bad as it is, national divide in America can get worse yet, as political rivalry will make good Republicans and bad Republicans virtually inseparable.

September 1, 2022: Record-breaking rainfalls are the prime suspect, and although the man-made climate crisis is thought to be a primary reason behind that, the devastating scale of flooding in Pakistan could have decreased in richer countries.

Vulnerability and defencelessness of poor citizens are among the chief factors in the lethal manner of the flood disaster, which has killed more than 1,000 people and affected tens of millions of people.

Truth is that Pakistan is responsible for less than 1 percent of the world’s planet-warming gases, yet it is the world’s eighth most vulnerable to the climate crisis. Pakistan’s glacial melt had reportedly increased by 23 per cent over the previous decade. Alarmed environmentalists and scientists called that the fastest rate in the world.

The developed part of the world agreed more than a decade ago to transfer at least $100 billion a year by 2020 to developing nations like Pakistan to ease their reliance on _ and help their transitions away from _ fossil fuels. That promise reportedly has yet to be fulfilled.

Now rich countries are talking about “aids”, which may not be entirely correct if we think about it. The word suggests generosity and charity instead of guilt or responsibility. For all climate rhetoric we hear everyday, “compensation” and “we are sincerely and unequivocally sorry” are actually the hardest words. At the climate talks in Glasgow, the United States, which, historically at least, accounted for the most greenhouse gas emissions in the world, was one of several advanced nations that showed opposition to obligatory payments for “loss and damages” in destruction in poor countries.

 

Daily update of key local and international events by Tulsathit Taptim

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