Anti-fake news centre likely to divide opinions
Thursday, August 29, 2019: Whenever a government campaigns against “fake news”, heavy politicisation is bound to follow. Just ask Donald Trump, whose attempts to ward off criticism were often laughed if he leans on the “misinformation” argument.
The Thai government’s plan to establish an anti-fake news centre is progressing continually, with committees being set up to look into key categories of fake news on the social media and how to combat them. Those key categories, according to Puttipong Punnakanta, the minister of digital for economy and society, include natural disasters, economy, health and cosmetic products and services, government policies and national security.
Puttipong said the centre’s working standard will match those of global social media giants like Facebook and YouTube. The facility should be operational on November 1, he added.
Wednesday, August 28, 2019: A politically significant schedule that many might not have noticed was completed rather smoothly today. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-0-cha, it seems, will have a military he wants in the foreseeable future.
He chaired the highest-level meeting of the Thai Armed Forces and this year’s military reshuffle list was finalized at the end. No major changes were made, meaning the list will go straight to the Royal Palace for the approving command of His Majesty the King.
Prayut, in his capacity as prime minister and defence minister, oversaw today’s meeting of the committee handling transfers of Armed Forces generals.
In Thai politics, who commands what in the Thai military has always been important, even for democratically-elected governments in the past.
Tuesday, August 27, 2019: At least three Future Forward MPs remain indebted to the government fund that gives loans to poor, underprivileged students, according to their asset reports to the authorities. They have apparently been paying parts of their loans, of course, but a question has been asked as to whether or how they were qualified as “poor” while seeking the money.
The issue, as of now, looks like a mini thorn in the Future Forward side, but the social media have started to pick on it and some columnists have mentioned it, hence the possibility of it snowballing into a major political case.
At least one of the MPs should never have been qualified as “poor” on his younger days, it has been pointed out. It has also been noted that all of the MPs in question now have millions of baht as their assets.
Student loans have been consistent sources of controversy, with many loan recipients failing to pay back, resulting in the fund getting depleted. There have been calls for recipients to honour their contracts and for affordable students to leave the fund for those really in need.
Monday, August 26, 2019: Chuan Leekpai, the head of Thai lawmakers, have called on them and their Asean counterparts to totally ignore political differences and tried their best to ensure “justice for all.”
In a speech marking the opening of the 40th Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), he said that while lawmakers could not ensure income equality, they are far better poised to narrow the gap of justice, albeit differential legal treatment of the rich and the poor.
One way to achieve the narrowing of the gap is to ignore ideological differences and go all out against corruption, no matter who is responsible for it, Chuan said.
He considered himself lucky because he used to head Thailand’s executive branch and is now heading the legislative branch. Both experiences confirm to him the importance of checks and balances. The legislative role, he said, is crucial in fighting corruption and a triumph in the battle against graft will lead to greater legal justice for the underprivileged.
Sunday, August 25, 2019: Critics may be seeing that populism is going digital. The Prayut government is apparently trying to bridge the generation gap in politics with an increased amount of free wi-fi, a programme curiously named to make people think of one party while using the internet.
Against the backdrop of poll results showing opposition figures more popular among young people than the ruling Palang Pracharat Party, the government has pledged to step up the “Pracharat Net” project, which features free internet for tens of thousands of agricultural villages. According to Puttipong Punnakanta, the minister of digital for economy and society, the speed will be faster as well.
He claimed the “Pracharat Net” project now boasts more than 6 million people registering to use free wi-fi. The project also involves teaching Thai farmers about e-commerce.
During his observation tour in Chachoengsao today, there was a demonstration of pesticide spraying by a drone.
Saturday, August 24, 2019: In a rare sympathetic comment from the United States about Thai politics, Thai-American US Senator Tammy Duckworth on Friday has urged Thais to be patient with the “messy” nature of democracy. Her exact words are “Jai yen yen (calm down/be patient/take it easy)”.
She visited Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday during her first official visit to her birthplace Bangkok since she was elected in 2016. Before that, there was a press conference where she congratulated Thailand on a “successful election”.
Asked by AFP why she thought the contentious election had been a success, Duckworth replied “Jai yen yen”. She even compared American history to that of Thailand. “One hundred years after we became a democracy, we had a civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of Americans … we are nowhere close to that here,” she said. “Real democracy is messy … I understand the frustration of those who want things to move faster in Thailand and I agree with you.”
The decorated US Army veteran, who also gave a speech at the Thai military academy during her visit, lost both legs in 2004 when her helicopter was shot down over Iraq.
Ever since, she became the first Thai-American born in Thailand to be elected to Congress, the first female double amputee elected to Senate, and the first senator to give birth in office.
Friday, August 23, 2019: By the time one reads this update, the three leading figures of the Future Forward Party must have submitted their asset reports to the authorities.
Future Forward spokeswoman Pannika Wanich said she, Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and party secretary-general Piyabutr Sangkanokkul had sought postponement for the submission but would have no problem beating today’s deadline at 4 pm.
“We have received inquiries from many people who wondered why our names did not appear in the asset declaration news,” she wrote on her Twitter account. “The three of us had sought extension of the deadline, something allowed by law and done by 70 other MPs.”
Thursday, August 22, 2019: Thais may be dismayed or even feel threatened by domestic political trouble, but the country has been identified as potentially one of the safe havens for Hong Kong people feeling no longer comfortable with their own politics, Manager online quoted foreign agencies as saying.
The agencies claimed real estate analysts and operators in Hong Kong have named Thailand and Malaysia as standing to benefit the most from political tension in the bustling island.
Many Hong Kong people pondering a life overseas also like Singapore, but the southeast Asian country has less competitive prices than Thailand and Malaysia, it was reported.
Political trouble is not only serious in Hong Kong, but it also threatens to last for a long time, which prompts many to seriously consider the overseas option, the analysts said.
Wednesday, August 21, 2019: In Thai politics, not showing up at a key function is a big deal, as it always leads to questions about loyalty. So, when New Economics Party MPs were not seen when Pheu Thai head Sompong Amornwiwat celebrated becoming the opposition leader today, all kinds of speculation automatically followed.
Rumours that at least “some” New Economics MPs would join the government side have been further fuelled by admission on Tuesday by deputy party leader Niyom Wiwanthanaditkul that while he and party leader Mingkwan Sangsuwan remained firmly loyal to the Pheu Thai-led opposition alliance, he did not know what the others would do.
In the middle of congratulatory faces, Sompong appeared unfazed. He had to. “We have had talks (with New Economics) and I don’t think there would be any problem,” the Pheu Thai leader said.
Things will be clearer when the six-MP New Economics Party holds a press conference, which is expected any minute.
Tuesday, August 20, 2019: Palang Pracharat MP Sira Janejaka continues to get bombardment left and right. That what was perceived as an arrogant and highly improper manner in the South a few days ago was not uncommon among “honourable representatives” _ as Thai MPs like to call themselves _ may say something about the popularity of the Prayut government.
Coalition leaders including Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, along with several in the government bloc, have made Sira look like an outcast. They all virtually said the incident in Phuket, in which the Bangkok MP loudly expressed dissatisfaction with police “reception”, was a personal issue that should not be taken as a “government attitude” in general.
But analysts say the uproar and wild-fire sharing of Sira-related content told a lot about how the public think of the government. If the government had been more popular, the outcry would have died down more quickly, they said.
However, guess who is spoiling it for the opposition. Of all the people, Wan Yoobamrung, Chalerm Yoobamrung’s son, is using Facebook to preach against arrogance and dare Sira to come to his constituency for a welcome he would never forget. Sira would not go anywhere near Wan’s area, of course, but he must have liked what Wan wrote, not least because the latter’s family had been involved in cases more serious than plain political arrogance.
Monday, August 19, 2019: With the government having six more House of Representatives votes than the opposition and having lost arguably insignificant voting tests in Parliament, in addition to a defection by a coalition partner and possibly more rebellion within the administration bloc, speculation about the New Economics Party’s future has returned.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan has guardedly welcomed the prospect of New Economics MPs joining the coalition from the opposition bloc, although he, a virtual power broker, claimed he knew nothing about it. “That would be nice” was all Prawit would say. He said that even if a shift of allegiance did happen, he did not even know if all New Economics MPs would join the government or only some of them would come.
New Economics’ loyalty has been doubted by the Pheu Thai-led opposition alliance before, particularly during the race to form a government. If it is being actually wooed by the Palang Pracharat camp, the party apparently has stronger bargaining power now than then.
Sunday, August 18, 2019: At a party seminar today, the Democrats reaffirm their trust of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Not his tongue, though. There are those who believe his words could be lightning rods.
“Maybe it would do him good if he could imitate (late prime minister and statesman) Prem (Tinsulanonda),” said Paitoon Kaewthong, who has overseen Democrats in the North, during a seminar of northern Democrats who also wished him a happy birthday. “Gen Prayut speaks very fast while it is not necessary for him to say everything (in public). Gen Prem was called Phra Thamey the Mute because many times the reporters got nothing from him to write about.”
Paitoon, former labour minister and now 84, said he believed the Prayut government with a slim House of Representatives majority can last long, as a Democrat-led government once proved it. The prime minister and his Cabinet have to work hard for the people, though, he insisted.
Saturday, August 17, 2019: Almost 69% of Super Poll respondents think an “honest government” serves the country better than a “dishonest” one. Problem, however, is apparently with the 31% who think the opposite.
The issues of being honest but dictatorial, or being democratically dishonest, or being dictatorially corrupt have kept popping up in Thai political debate. Super Poll, however, has tried to dwell on the question of honesty alone and steer clear from the dictatorship versus democracy debate in its recent survey of 1,082 people earlier this month.
Even so, the findings are somewhat unsettling. Some 69 % prefer an honest government, while the rest think a dishonest can serve the country better. In other words, the poll suggests that 3 in 10 of Thais believe corrupt governments work better for Thailand.
Other Super Poll results can make Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha smile. A vast majority, over 80% of respondents, thinks the highlight of his “work” over the past years was the big progress in infrastructure projects. What people want for his “civil rule” to prioritize is the cost of living issue and income generation.
Friday, August 16, 2019: Next year, Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong will retire. This year, First Army Region Commander Lt Gen Narongpan Jittkaewtae will reportedly become assistant Army commander-in-chief. Speculation, therefore, has been strong that Narongpan, who is close to Apirat, is next in line for the powerful Army chief position.
Narongpan’s jump from the First Region Army to the Army headquarters is one of the biggest highlights of this year’s military reshuffle. The position of Army commander-in-chief is the most politically significant job. Apirat and all predecessors including Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha can testify to that.
News reports suggest that Narongpan’s steep and systematic rise in the Army seems to guarantee his ultimate career destination. The reports also hint that Narongpan’s recent career progress has support from the higher ranks in the Army.
Thursday, August 15, 2019: With the opposition set to grill him in Parliament over the oath-taking controversy, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s political priorities are clear, and the proposed joining of Palang Pracharat is certainly not on top of the list.
“He has not said anything,” was all Palang Pracharat secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong had to say when asked about the “invitation”, which seemed pretty important a few weeks ago.
Prayut faced a parliamentary onslaught on his incomplete oath that he uttered before he and his Cabinet officially took office, with the opposition set to submit a motion on the issue this week.
Palang Pracharat, the leading party of the government coalition, has also been pre-occupied with how to manage the slim House of Representatives majority, which had lost a vote a few days ago. The party is looking up to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan to strengthen coordination and fragile coalition unity in his capacity as the party’s chief strategist.
Wednesday, August 14, 2019: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha suggested he did not expect red-shirted leaders and other activists who have been acquitted of terrorism charges to hail the Thai courts.
A total of 24 red-shirted protesters including Veerakarn Musigapong, Jatuporn Prompan, Nuttawut Saikua and Weng Tojirakarn were charged in connection with the Ratchaprasong uprising in early 2010 in what was considered to be one of Thailand’s biggest political cases. Violence rocked Bangkok during the time, with bustling Ratchaprasong area barricaded by protesters for weeks and businesses paralyzed. The defendants were accused of using terrorist means to try to oust the Abhisit government.
The defendants were acquitted for lack of evidence.
Prayut said he did not expect anyone to praise the courts. “Only when people are penalized are the courts deemed to be unjust. This happens all the time without fail,” the prime minister said.
Tuesday, August 13, 2019: The Thai Civilized Party officially announced withdrawal from the coalition government today, with its leader criticizing “disrespect” for small parties, petrol policies that “shifted the burden to the people”, oath-taking mistakes that remain uncorrected, and government MPs’ “lack of complete freedom” to scrutinize the administration.
At a press conference, Mongkolkit Suksintharanon gave a hard-hitting farewell message that, however, ended with some sort of a carrot.
“I believe that Gen Prayut is capable of continuing as prime minister, but he has to right the wrong,” the first defector of the coalition government said. Mongkolkit vowed to play a constructive role in the opposition bloc.
Monday, August 12, 2019: A big majority of respondents to a recent Dusit Poll survey believed “politics” was the cause of the recent bomb explosions in Bangkok. The poll’s findings also showed the public feeling less secured and afraid that it might happen again.
More than 86% of 1,220 people surveyed between Aug 8-10 blame politics for the explosions. Almost 84% are afraid that the terrorist attacks might happen again. Additionally, more than 76% think that the incidents affect public confidence in the government.
Sunday, August 11, 2019: The Thai Civilized Party is set to announce withdrawal from the coalition government, and that could be just the tip of the iceberg. Reports and speculation have it that the party is not the only one ready to walk away, and that the Prayut government might have only 249 MPs left with other small parties also threatening to join in, reducing it to a “minority” in the House of Representatives.
According to its leader, Mongkolkit Suksintharanon, the party’s executives will come together on Tuesday to formally declare the defection. They will declare the party “independent opposition” although there is no such thing in Thai politics.
Saturday, August 10, 2019: Out of “an abundance of caution”, Barack Obama once retook the oath of office on a different day, a surprise move that came after a much-noticed stumble, when the US supreme court chief justice got mixed up with the words, prompting the politician to follow suit.
According to the US Constitution, the president must solemnly swear “that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States”. But Obama said: “I will execute the office of president of the United States faithfully.”
Well, Obama retook the oath despite the relatively minor problem compared with Prayut. Should the Thai leader do the same? A growing number of people are agreeing that he should, and there are signs that he might.
Friday, August 9, 2019: Ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, a fugitive sentenced under military rule in Thailand to five years in prison on graft-related charges, has received Serbian citizenship, Reuters reported, quoting Serbia’s state news agency Tanjug. The Serbian outlet reported that the citizenship “could be in the interest of Serbia”. Serbian officials did not comment on the reason behind the decision.
A Serbian government decree confirming Yingluck’s citizenship was published in June in Serbia’s official gazette, it was reported.
The issue has become one of the hottest Thai-related political news at the moment, with the media in Thailand and abroad zooming in on it.In 2010, Her big brother Thaksin Shinawatra was granted honorary citizenship of Montenegro, Serbia’s former partner in the now-defunct state union.
Thursday, August 8, 2019: A lot of politicians have commented on the oath-taking controversy and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s “apology” that seems to put more spotlight on the situation. Here are summaries of some of what has been said:
Future Forward spokeswoman Pannika Wanich: Does this (apology) sound like Prayut wants out?
Pheu Thai chief strategist Sudarat Keyuraphan: Prayut out.
Seri Ruamthai leader Seripisut Temiyavej: Prayut out. Chuan should be held responsible, too, for allowing illegitimate people to announce policies to Parliament.
Chaturon Chaisaeng: Prayut should apologise to public, not Cabinet
Red shirt leader Weng Tojirakarn: Apologies not enough. Prayut out.
Red shirt leader Nuttawut Saikua: This must go to court. We need legal precedent on this one.
Deputy PM Anutin Charnvirakul: I don’t think he’s quitting. He’s just having a little cold and will be back working full time.
Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam: I simply can’t say on somebody else’s behalf whether he’s happy about his work or not.
Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat: People should not go too far with their interpretation of the prime minister’s apology.
Wednesday, August 7, 2019: Should politicians, especially those in high offices, be transparent about their tax payment dating back a few years? California says “Yes” but Donald Trump says “No”.
The US state’s drastic law requiring presidential primary candidates to release their tax returns or be kept off the ballot has been challenged in federal court by President Trump, whose attorneys argued that state’s Democratic leaders had overstepped their constitutional authority and tried to hit Trump below the belt at the expense of human rights.
Thais, facing a lot of political transparency issues themselves, can watch and learn from the saga. Two things are certain: Trump is a public figure and there is nothing to be afraid of if he has been honestly paying his taxes.
Tuesday, August 6, 2019: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s meet-the-people programme may return because, he claimed, there have been calls for it to come back.
“I may do it again,” he said. “But it will be occasional this time, not virtually everyday like the past five years.”
He did not elaborate on who made the calls for the programme, much criticised and taunted in many circles, to be back, only suggesting that much of what said was already implemented or getting started.
“I would love it if you could go back and listen to what was said and see what was done over the past five years,” he claimed. “Sometimes I talked too fast and too long and many people might not watch until the end.”
On the opposition’s questioning of his “incomplete oath”, he said, rather ambiguously, that he was “looking at ways to solve the problem.” On the Bangkok bomb attacks, he said at least nine people were known to have been involved.
Monday, August 5, 2019: Northeastern people like Pheu Thai’s chief election strategist Sudarat Keyuraphan the most, according to an E-Saan poll which tried to find out who was the most popular politician in Thailand’s biggest region. She is followed rather closely by Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and distantly by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
The poll by E-Saan Centre for Business and Economic Research of the Khon Kaen University gives Sudarat a 28.3% rating, Thanathorn 26.6% and Prayut 11.9%.
Rock singer Toon Bodyslam is the most popular social activist thanks to his fund-raising marathon runs. He received a staggering 37.9% popularity rating.
The pollsters surveyed a total of 1,057 people during the first half of the year.
Sunday, August 4, 2019: At least one Dhammakaya advocate is a government MP, whereas the opposition is apparently crawling with supporters of the controversial temple. To add to that, a key suspect in the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative embezzlement scandal is a fugitive former abbot who is immensely popular and who vows to face justice when Thailand returns to civil rule.
Previous attempts to capture Dhammachayo involved a siege of the vast temple and defiance of Dhammakaya followers and monks that sometimes bordered on belligerence. What will happen next has been widely speculated, and linked to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s decision to oversee the work of the Department of Special Investigation by himself. That has been denied, but speculation about Prayut’s motives has been persisting.
Analysts foresee a prolonged and heavily-politicised legal saga, in which Dhammachayo eventually resurfaces to be granted bail. The temple’s current efforts to ordain 5,000 monks in the next few days are seen by some as a strictly religious affair and others as a strategic move aimed at making the authorities think twice before taking any drastic step.
Saturday, August 3, 2019: Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin has denied speculation that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha decided to take charge of the Department of Special Investigation by himself because he (Prayut) wanted to “speed up” certain cases such as the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative scandal.
Somsak said Prayut only wanted to coordinate between the police and military on national security matters and would not interfere with any on-going case.
The cooperative scandal is one of a few politically sensitive cases, and Prayut’s decision to oversee the DSI was linked to the continued flight from justice of a former Dhammakaya Temple abbot, Dhammachayo. The unorthodox temple, often associated with certain leading politicians on the opposite side of Prayut, has been forced to deny involvement in the cooperative embezzlement scandal .
“I had known before I became justice minister that Gen Prayut wanted to bridge the gap between the police and military regarding their works on security matters,” Somsak said. “I don’t think his aim was to take charge of on-going cases.”
Whatever Prayut’s real motive, Friday’s bomb explosions in Bangkok are testing it.
Friday, August 2, 2019: The Thai political scene hots up with bomb explosions in Bangkok and the opposition’s bold yet risky move against the “legitimacy” of the Prayut Cabinet.
Nobody was killed and the explosions apparently had “politics” written all over them. Despite the capture of two suspects, the Bangkok bomb incidents are expected to end up fading away like many politically-motivated “terrorist attacks” before them. Public debate will be ideologically divided like previously, focusing on whether someone wanted to cause disturbances, or whether someone wanted to frame someone, or whether someone wanted to get sympathy from appearing to be framed, or whether someone wanted to get sympathy from appearing to be wrongly accused of trying to frame someone. In short, we will never know.
On the opposition’s questioning of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s “incomplete” oath which it says killed the “legitimacy” of the entire Cabinet, it was a bold move that might backfire. On the one hand, it could be a game in which the opposition tried to point out that anyone could slip. On the other hand, though, the opposition was effectively saying that the Constitution should be taken as it was written, so this could take “honest mistakes” out of the equation and deprive Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and his Future Forward Party of an argument that they could rely on in his share-holding case.
Thursday, August 1, 2019: The Prayut government will work with a Bt3.22 trillion budget for the new fiscal year, with a targeted income up until the fiscal 2022 dropping by Bt1.9 billion, according to the Budget Bureau. Budget details should be finalized for Cabinet approval next week.
Budgetary measures to stimulate spending will be in full swing after the Budget Bill becomes fully effective in January next year, officials said after today’s meeting attended by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
A balanced budget is not expected until 2030, the bureau said.
Wednesday, July 31, 2019: If a big claim by a senior Palang Pracharat member proves to be true, then the party’s much-dreaded “sucking power” remains something opponents should be afraid of.
Chon Buri MP Suchart Chomklin, the leader of MPs of the ruling coalition party, said a heavyweight politician in Si Sa Ket was deserting Pheu Thai for his camp, a move that could deal Pheu Thai a big blow at least in two major northeastern provinces, Si Sa Ket and Surin.
The “deserter” is Pornsak Charoenprasert, a deputy agriculture minister in the Yingluck government and was always considered a Pheu Thai key man in Si Sa Ket.
Tuesday, July 30, 2019: The new version of “Child’s Play” has convinced Princess Ubolratana that the time has come for Thailand to seriously consider the use of robotic caregivers to support the growing population of ageing people.
She said in her Instagram post that an ideal algorithm was one that enabled AI (artificial intelligence) to be a genuine friend and caregiver of elderly people, unlike the robotic doll in Child’s Play that was hunter and slasher.
“I have written about the ageing society and it’s my belief that we can write an algorithm that make robots true friends and nurses of old people,” she wrote.
The princess was a prime ministerial nominee of the Thai Raksachart Party. But the nomination became controversial and the party was consequently dissolved.
Care-giving robots have been increasingly common, but the princess’ move has underlined the importance of the ageing society issue, which still awaits concrete government action.
Monday, July 29, 2019: One of the major legal cases to be quickly tackled under the Prayut government is the cooperative embezzlement that allegedly involved the Dhammakaya Temple, officials have said. Some of the sources link Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s decision to oversee the Department of Special Investigation by himself to the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative case which is allegedly tied to Dhammakaya and flight from justice of ex-abbot Dhammachayo.
DSI chief Paisit Wongmuang said a Justice Ministry order has been handed down calling for a quick legal process involving the Klongchan Credit Union cooperative case, “in which there are many victims and a lot of money was involved.”
Sunday, July 28, 2019: One of the first things the newly-formed “Pheu Thai Plus” group has done is to make young people in the esports community know that the biggest political party is willing to back them. The group, made up of members that encompass generations, attended a major esports event at the BITEC conference centre in Bangna this weekend and vowed to support talent development and organising of activities that could put Thailand on a global map.
The formation of the Pheu Thai Plus group was taunted in certain corners as an attempt to boost its appeal to the younger generation, amid a looming threat by the Future Forward Party which is selling, among others, a look of sophistication.
Esports has gone far beyond the notion of children playing video games and is by far politically untapped, so to speak, although Thailand has been well known for a while in terms of key tournaments and rapid growth of talented video game players. Many countries are paying serious attention to all aspects of esports development.
(Photo from ea.com, a website of a leading sport games producer)
Saturday, July 27, 2019: Pheu Thai chief strategist Sudarat Keyuraphan may make a triumphant return as an MP after all, if a by-election is required in a Bangkok district. The court is set to rule on an asset declaration case involving a Pheu Thai MP in Bangkok’s Constituency 14 soon, and if Polbhum Wipatpumipratet is found guilty of wrongly declaring his assets, he will be disqualified, paving the way for a by-election in the area where Sudarat’s popularity is high.
Sudarat missed out on Parliament after the March 24 general election because new rules of seat allocation among parties ruled out everyone in Pheu Thai’s part list. Her potential return as an MP would inject much-needed dynamism in Pheu Thai’s parliamentary activities.
The final judgement on Polbhum’s case is expected to be in the second week of September.
Friday, July 26, 2019: Ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra neither denied nor confirmed speculation that he was washing his hand of politics during a video call to supporters gathering in Los Angeles to wish him a Happy Birthday, according to a Facebook post by a key Thaksin backer.
The Thai expression for quitting something is “to put one’s hand down”. During the video call, he was asked if he was “putting his hand down”. His reply can be interpreted as anything. Thaksin told his supporters everyone needed to put his hand down once in a while. “When people eat, they need to put their hands down so they can eat,” Thaksin said. “When people sit, surely their hands need to rest on their thighs.”
He did say, though, that he had no worries now that the Pheu Thai Party is supervised by Sompong Amornwiwat and Sudarat Keyuraphan.
Thursday, July 25, 2019: Everything was as expected on the first day of policy debate but for Future Forward secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul’s somewhat paradoxical behaviour. A major critic of the Thai Constitution, which he always dubbed dictatorial, pro-military and twisted, so much so that he and his party wanted to spearhead a drastic amendment push, he made a big deal out of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s “constitutionally incomplete” oath upon taking office.
Piyabutr insisted that Prayut did not vow to “protect” and “abide by” the Constitution, something the prime minister was constitutionally supposed to say at the end of his oath, made when he and his Cabinet were royally sworn in. The opposition MP, a legal expert, said afterwards that he would replay a video clip of the oath to back his claim.
“What was missing was a very important part of the oath,” he told reporters. Then he went on to ask if Prayut was always exempt from charter violations.
Piyabutr’s strange “caring” for the Constitution could be strategic, though. His party has been accused of being a threat to the Thai political system as stipulated in the Constitution. Attacking Prayut could have been intended as a message that if ones looked hard enough, they could find constitutional violations anywhere.
The rest of the day went on as expected, with the opposition using the parliamentary debate on the government’s policy to attack Prayut’s and his Cabinet’s backgrounds and their rise to power through “unfair” Constitution.
Wednesday, July 24, 2019: New Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin’s active involvement in the compensation controversy of the Praewa case underlines its potentially massive political significance.
The case, concerning rich and poor families, is a recipe for fresh political trouble for the Prayut Cabinet. Justice imbalances in Thailand are always deemed one of the main causes of political divide, and the court’s order for compensation to be given to poor families of accident victims is a big challenge because many fear the money will come very slowly and be far from full.
The family of young Praewa Thephasadin na Ayudhaya has to pay compensation to families of the elevated Don Muang tollway crash many years ago but complaints are being made by the supposed recipients that they had not received anything. The compensation issue has dominated front pages and many are wanting to know what the Justice Ministry can do about it.
Somsak has had a meeting with officials and lawyers concerned this week to see how things can be sped up. He has been told that August, when the compensation timeframe ends, might see a bigger uproar. He was informed, however, that everyone involved was doing the best he could, although the delay means the compensation is running past Bt41 million already.
Tuesday, July 23, 2019: If the worst ever time-respecting humans _ Thai politicians speaking in Parliament _ somehow manage to abide by time allocation being finalized at the moment, most speeches at the policy debate at the assembly hall this week will be shorter than children’s songs.
Senators will get about five minutes each for some 55 speakers. Cynics will say that this is more than enough because they are thinly-veiled government supporters anyway. However, time being allocated for MPs on both government and opposition sides are not much better. The Palang Pracharat Party will get a combined 123 minutes, the Democrats 63 minutes, Bhumjaithai 59 minutes and Chartthaipattana 12 minutes. The other government parties having more than one MP each get 17 minutes altogether and the parties with one MP each are given 20 minutes.
The opposition will get 13.5 hours. That, along with the very tight timeframe given the government bloc, has raised the possibility of the debate, which begins on Thursday, covering three days instead of two. House Speaker Chuan Leekpai has confirmed he would grant extension, but insisted that three days would be the maximum.
Monday, July 22, 2019: Reporters were urged to leave the room as the closing stages of Palang Pracharat’s seminar in Nakhon Ratchasima highlighted calls by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan for party unity, severely tested during the formation of the Prayut Cabinet.
Prawit literally said that the government, despite commanding a slim House of Representatives majority, could only be undermined from the inside. If coalition MPs were united, he said, such a majority could last four years.
If serious factional problems remained, they were rather well hidden during the seminar. Some even described the party’s situation as a melting place for various types of rocks and stones which have now begun to blend.
Seminars often end this way, don’t they?
Sunday, July 21, 2019: Will Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit advocate a charter change that could affect his party? The new way of allocation of party list seats benefited his Future Forward Party immensely, Thanathorn’s critics noted. This means if he wanted to “wipe out all the legacy” of Prayut Chan-o-cha’s coup as the rising political star often proclaimed, the first thing he should target was the very rule that seemed to favour the Palang Pracharat Party and his own camp.
The critics said all Thanathorn needed to do is to calculate how many MPs Future Forward would have got from the March 24 election had the old rules on party list seat allocation been applied. The number of MPs of his party would have decreased significantly.
Changing the Constitution is very difficult, but supposing it could happen and the party list seat allocation rules went back to the old way, Future Forward’s existence would have been awkward indeed, the critics say.
The new rules did affect the Pheu Thai Party negatively, but Future Forward undeniably benefited from them. It is also undeniable that in addition to the senators’ increased role and power, the seat allocation is seen as the most controversial part of this “Prayut legacy”.
Supposing proposed charter changes have no retroactive impact, debating the party list rules could still make Future Forward very uncomfortable, the critics say.
Saturday, July 20, 2019: A university political science lecturer has called on the Future Forward Party to let Pheu Thai’s Chadchart Sittipunt be the sole opposition candidate in the Bangkok gubernatorial election to significantly increase his chance of winning. Problem is, Future Forward is the Bangkok champion in the March general election and stands a great chance of winning the prestigious gubernatorial poll by itself. The newly-formed party has not responded to the plea for a show of “unity” in the opposition bloc.
The coalition government cannot be smiling, though, as it is facing a similar situation. The Palang Pracharat and Democrat parties both will likely to compete. Palang Pracharat, however, will have to find a new candidate after the one tipped to be its runner, a former Chiang Rai governor who made his name nationally known during the Wild Boar rescue, is proving unqualified due to his residential problems.
Whoever fielded by Palang Pracharat will most likely be up against a Democrat candidate. Thailand’s oldest party has never missed participating in the Bangkok gubernatorial elections and will be determined to bounce back from its major general election setback in March.
Uncertainties, meanwhile, continue to shroud the future of Chadchart, who can still register as an independent candidate for the gubernatorial election. The previous Pheu Thai’s city gubernatorial candidate, Pongsapat Pongcharoen, suffered badly from what looked like Bangkok voters’ “fear” of Thaksin Shinawatra in 2013 despite leading comfortably in initial popularity polls.
Who will embarrass whom will be known in a few months’ time.
Friday, July 19, 2019: Will Prime Minister Prayut Chan-0-cha lose it on his first day of facing conventional Parliament? The Palang Pracharat Party believes he will pull through.
The policy debate starts next week, July 25 to be exact. Government and opposition whips are working on time allocation. As of now, 13.5 hours will be allocated to the opposition, while the Cabinet, Prayut excluded, will get five hours and additional 5 hours go to coalition MPs. Another five hours will be given to senators.
Prayut will get an exclusive 2 hours to kick-start the session by outlining the government’s policy. He is expected to sail through that, but the opposition intends to make life difficult for him after the opening speech, with several of its speakers planning to attack his “controversial” qualifications or background as a coup leader.
“The prime minister is always calm and composed,” said Palang Pracharat MP Wirat Rattanaset in his capacity as the government’s chief whip. “Even though it will be his first time in such a Parliament, I firmly believe that he will have no problem whatsoever.”
Many will beg to differ.
Thursday, July 18, 2019: The Pheu Thai-led opposition wants the debate on the government’s policy to last three days, preparing to drive home three main points: The “lack of unity and cohesion” among the coalition partners, the “various shades of grey” in the Prayut Cabinet, and the “ambiguity” regarding proposed charter amendment.
The opposition’s plan is to hit where it hurts. The relationships between the biggest government party, Palang Pracharat, and the other coalition partners are more or less fragile. The ganja policy, for example, reflects disagreement between Palang Pracharat and Bhumjaithai over how far it should go, with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha seen as extremely cautious about ganja use for recreation. Palang Pracharat and the Democrats are not seeing eye to eye over how the Constitution should be changed.
Attacks on qualifications of Cabinet members including Prayut himself are also expected to be a big highlight of the policy debate, with the prime minister’s recent background as a coup leader definitely coming into play.
On charter amendment, the government’s policy categorizes it as one of the priorities. But nothing is clear on main schedules and what clause should be subjected to changes.
The policy debate is tentatively scheduled for July 25, 26 and 27. Pheu Thai, in an unfamiliar role as an opposition force, is said to be recruiting speakers.
Wednesday, July 17, 2019: Army chief Apirat Kongsompong has strongly denied making threats against any attempt to censure the prime minister, saying his political role ended with the beginning of the civil rule.
Apirat described as “fake news” claims, viral online, that he considered censuring Prayut Chan-o-cha an attempt to disrupt national progress and that he (Apirat) would have to “go back out and save the country” if turmoil erupts.
“I have never said anything like that,” Apirat said. “Who would have said anything like that? Any reporter would know immediately that it’s fake news.” He said he was getting back to his military routines because political involvement resulting from the coup was now over.
Tuesday, July 16, 2019: Politicians or their supporters shooing their rivals away, asking them to leave the country if they don’t like it so much, is common in Thailand. It’s even condemned as overly nationalistic by so-called “liberals”. What about Donald Trump, by the way? Is his behaviour a cause for concern?
The US president, now dubbed “Racist in Chief” by some, has said that female Democrat politicians should “go back and help fix” their “broken and crime-infested countries”. He is having serious problems with many “liberals”, a strange phenomenon given his election triumph in what is proclaimed as the most democratic country on earth. This comment, though, has taken a tough scrutiny on Trump’s attitude and mindset to a whole new level.
Monday, July 15, 2019: The biggest opposition party, Pheu Thai, is staring at dual, unrelated trouble, some party insiders have been quoted as saying. The first involves the challenge of adapting its mostly rural and ageing politicians to the fast-developing technology that may sway a big part of the anti-Prayut market toward the Future Forward Party. The second concerns uncertainty regarding the Shinawatras, despite last week’s party election that installed Sompong Amornwiwat, who is close to Thaksin Shinawatra’s younger sister Yaowapa Wongsawat, as Pheu Thai’s new leader.
The party sources were quoted as saying that most Pheu Thai MPs’ association with technology was using LINE to say “Good morning.” This could tempt young voters to lean toward Future Forward, which looks more sophisticated, it was said.
The second trouble has to do with continued uncertainties regarding what Thaksin thinks about the party. The setting up of the now-dissolved Thai Raksachart Party was at the time considered “strategic” in the face of new constitutional rules on how party list seats were allocated, but Pheu Thai members have been unsettled by the reluctance of Thai Raksachart’s key members to rejoin their old party’s activities. This, along with Sudarat Keyuraphan’s rising influences, prompted rumours that Thaksin might be waiting for the right time to “let go” of Pheu Thai, which might be too big and inconvenient to rebrand.
Sunday, July 14, 2019: The Bhumjaithai Party’s attempt to further liberate ganja production and consumption in Thailand has made its way into the Prayut government’s official policy to be put in front of Parliament soon.
The official policy, according to news reports, stated that ganja would be promoted as an economic plant and whose medical benefits would be pursued. However, ministerial decisions will be needed concerning “other purposes of use”.
The 41-page official policy will be introduced to Parliament by Prayut. About two hours have been allocated for that. Leading government defence of the policy will be Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana, Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong and Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao, the reports said.
A matter of urgency is reduction of gaps in wealth and quality of life, with further improvement of the “welfare card” programme one of the top priorities, Prayut is expected to say. Other priorities include child welfare, assistance for the elderly, shelter and land for the poor and a look into the minimum wage, the reports said.
Saturday, July 13, 2019: A controversial figure in Palang Pracharat and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s Cabinet will be leading attempts to weaken the Pheu Thai Party’s firm grip of the Northern region, it has been reported.
Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao knows a thing or two about how the Shinawatras operate politically in the North, and he has been assigned by Palang Pracharat to lay down groundworks for the ruling party to make solid inroads in the region. He will be recruiting local politicians and canvassers and mapping plans for rural and national elections, the report said.
His rise to the Cabinet has been highly contentious thanks to his unfavourable background, with complaints registered and argument in his defence made. But the report suggested that it was his background and belligerence that should be worrying Pheu Thai the most.
Friday, July 12, 2019: Ever wonder how much of the tax money is used to get the parliamentary machine going? The following is some information which is highlighted by TV Channel 3:
- Each MP and Senator gets Bt113,560 a month
- Each MP/Senator will have one specialist, who is employed at Bt24,000 a month
- Each MP/Senator will have two second-string specialists, each of whom getting Bt15,000 a month (a combination of Bt30,000)
- Each MP/Senator will have five assistants, each of whom getting Bt15,000 a month (a combination of Bt75,000)
- House committee members get Bt1,500 each for every meeting
- Sub committees of House committees give each member Bt800 for each meeting
- Travel costs (covering road, train and air trips) are funded by Parliament if they concern official duties
- Health care expenses can be reimbursed
- Lap-top computers can be borrowed from Parliament
- There are financial support funds for former parliamentarians
Round figure for the above parliamentary salaries is Bt2.18 billion annually.
Thursday, July 11, 2019: Many young and old employees of Thai Airways have been engaged in heated online arguments after certain crew members took cheerful photos with Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit when he flew to Europe a few days ago and posted them on Facebook.
To cut a long story short, the argument was about his controversial image, human rights and Thai Airways’ ethical guidelines preventing crew members from being involved in religious and political controversies. Tension among the staff, according to a news report, was so heated that big boss Sumeth Damrongchaitham had to issue an internal plea for employees to be extremely careful about what they do online.
“Even good intention can be used as a tool by other people,” he said.
Wednesday, July 10, 2019: With Bangkok traffic snarls worsening and Thai education needing a drastic revamp, how MPs should dress themselves has continued to dominate political debate.
“If MPs want to wear T-shirts and football shorts to Parliament, then so be it,” said Future Forward secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul. He was defending party spokeswoman Pannika Wanich who had caused a big stir a few days ago by opting against orthodox uniforms and wearing a cultural dress to Parliament.
Pannika’s act prompted both criticism and support, and politicians have been fiercely debating the issue. Admittedly, she had been under a tough scrutiny following exposure of her past online messages and some photos that critics said unmistakably underlined her controversial political stand.
Piyabutr, himself under a very tough ideological scrutiny, insisted that how one dresses himself or herself was a personal right, and the issue of dressing will continue to evolve with time.
Don’t bet against what Piyabutr said being lauded or ridiculed along ideological lines.
Tuesday, July 9, 2019: One of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-0-cha’s last “legislative” acts as a coup leader will be to revoke a great number of “orders” issued following the power seizure in 2014, according to Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.
With him set to lead a civilian government under a system in which laws are created in Parliament, Prayut will have to function through political consensus, not what he singlehandedly imposes. There are countless post-coup orders that are against this principle, and Wissanu said Prayut is now set to wipe them out.
Among post-coup orders to be repelled include ones concerning the military court and the media, Wissanu said. However, some orders would be maintained, but they concern bureaucratic continuity, not public liberty and freedom, according to the deputy prime minister.
Monday, July 8, 2019: One of Thailand’s most-monitored birthday parties is not taking place this year. In a tweet, Thaksin Shinawatra said he would spend July 26 quietly with his family, which is quite a break from the usual, politically volatile events of the past few years.
He did not give many reasons, except that it was quite hot in Dubai this year, making outdoor parties inconvenient and uncomfortable. “There are limitations regarding the location,” he said. The man chose instead to spend quiet, quality time with family members.
His past birthday parties, whether he intended it or not, were often made to be big political occasions, where he sent out belligerent messages and his politicians displayed defiance.
Speculation has been _ and will continue to be _ rife. Red shirted leader Jatuporn Prompan was the first to suggest that there could be more than meet the eyes. But any assertion that Thaksin was retreating from politics has been dismissed by a few political analyses in the media.
Even Jatuporn, who has been noticeably philosophical lately, said Thaksin, 70, might have come to that point in his life where “doing less can have far bigger impact than doing more.”
Sunday, July 7, 2019: Red shirted leader Jatuporn Prompan has pointed at a major dilemma facing opponents of the Prayut government _ the more you hit it now, the longer they will stay.
Jatuporn said the Prayut administration can only be destroyed from the inside in the near future. He compared the government to a “rusty ship” that will sink by its own. In other words, he believed that rival factions within the ruling Palang Pracharat Party secretly conspiring against one another were much “better” than enemies’ bombardment.
He said if the opposition initiated all-out assaults now, it would play into the government’s hands, and it could even temporarily unify the rival government factions. Moreover, the Senate will continue to hold special powers after the next election and it would make Prayut Chan-o-cha return to power anyway.
“The best way is for the opposition to be patient,” Jatuporn said. “I give it three months at best and six months at worst.”
Saturday, July 6, 2019: Will the Prayut government ease rules governing cultivation, production and consumption of ganja? The Bhumjaithai Party has officially asked it to do so.
Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul said in a Facebook post that he has asked the prime minister to incorporate the party’s stand on ganja in the government’s policy to be announced to Parliament in a few days. The party wants to ease rules on cultivation considerably in order to facilitate medicinal researches and promote industrial (economic) activities related to the plant.
There are also two potentially controversial words in Bhumjaithai’s policy regarding eased rules on ganja. Those words are “consumption” and “recreation”. How those words and the whole “free ganja” issue will play out in the government policy remains to be seen.
Friday, July 5, 2019: Seven days from now, Pheu Thai is expected to elect Sompong Amornwiwat its new leader. The election is described by Ladawan Wongsriwong, acting spokeswoman of Pheu Thai, as “1,000 per cent democratic”, although the party’s history of picking its leaders speaks for itself.
According to Ladawan, Chiang Mai MP Sompong is supported by most Pheu Thai members going into the election on July 12. His name, however, has come to the fore only recently, with several reports claiming he was the preferred choice of Yaowapa Wongsawat, Pheu Thai’s influential behind-the-scene figure and younger sister of Thaksin Shinawatra.
Another leadership candidate, Bangkok MP Anudit Nakhonthap, who is favoured by another “tiger woman” of Pheu Thai, Sudarat Keyuraphan, may have to settle for the position of party secretary-general.
The potential Sompong-Anudit showdown has been considered a proxy war with Sudarat and Yaowapa the real protagonists.
Thursday, July 4, 2019: Thaksin Shinawatra’s younger sister Yaowapa Wongsawat has called for a Pheu Thai push to ensure that the party’s influence in the North does not yield grounds to the Palang Pracharat and Future Forward parties, a news report said.
Yaowapa, who has been subjected to intense political rumours in connection with the “reopening” of the rice pledging case, which doomed ex-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is another younger sister of Thaksin, reportedly wants Pheu Thai to dominate local elections in the North to maintain its national clout.
She has been meeting with Pheu Thai’s national politicians representing the North and asking them to join forces to make sure that the party’s northern local politicians win all elections in their communities. She was quoted as saying that Palang Pracharat and Future Forward represent real threats to Pheu Thai’s local politicians.
Her reported movement has sent out two significant signals. The first one is that Thaksin is not abandoning the party. The second one concerns Yaowapa herself. There has been speculation that the party’s prime ministerial nominee Sudarat Keyuraphan is ready to wrest control of the party which is planning to elect a new leadership, but Yaowapa’s “return to action” means Sompong Amornwiwat, her (Yaowapa’s) preferred candidate for the party’s helm, stands a really good chance.
Wednesday, July 3, 2019: Politics can cash in on any hype, and it may be a matter of time before the song sung in Thai by Chip ‘n’ Dale gets a full-blown political treatment in Thailand.
Already, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has been mocked with changed lyrics. The mockery is still within a limited circle, but don’t bet against his opponents and admirers taking full advantage of the song’s rising popularity in the very near future.
It has been a Disney slam-dunk when its relationship with Thailand is concerned. The song about selling nuts sung by Chip ‘n’ Dale in a Mickey Mouse cartoon has been a big hit here, with countless websites reporting about it and working out the correct lyrics.
The song is in the “Our Floating Dreams” released on June 22, featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse in Thailand seeking opportunities at a floating market. Chipmunk brothers Chip ‘n’ Dale sing the song while paddling in a canal with a stock of nuts. Millions of people have watched it on YouTube. The number is climbing.
Stay tuned for various politically contemptuous versions.
Tuesday, July 2, 2019: For now, a potential Cabinet formation disaster has been averted, with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha saying his ministerial list has been all but completed and the ruling Palang Pracharat Party seemingly halting a showdown between rival factions.
Prayut said he never meant to make a coup threat, insisting his statement that he did not want to see political trouble solved “in the old way” was a sincere call for politicians to settle their conflicts rationally. Nobody wanted a coup, he insisted, adding that not even he.
He said he was happy now, since the Cabinet formation was proceeding smoothly at present.
One of his key messages was that his coup party was retiring according to the main timeline.
The Palang Pracharat Party, meanwhile, showcased rival factions making a truce, with party leader Uttama Savanayana appearing at an apparently amicable press conference with top figures of the Sam Mitr (Three Friends) group.
The group’s move to oust party secretary-general Sonthirat Sontijirawong seemed to have been called off, for now at least.
Sonthirat, meanwhile, gave an interview defending his management style, but he did not attack the faction and vowed to do his best “at any ministry”.
Monday, July 1, 2019: In an unprecedented move and amid serious possibility of the Palang Pracharat Party being torn apart, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has issued a public apology over conflicts within the ruling camp over the Cabinet formation.
The open letter, issued from Government House, stated that as the prime ministerial nominee of the Palang Pracharat Party, Prayut felt bad about the reported conflicts within the ruling camp and would like to apologize for the problems.
His action was unheard of, especially when forming a Cabinet was concerned. News reports today said conflicts within Palang Pracharat were reaching a breaking point, with the Sammitr (Three Friends) group seeking to oust party secretary-general Sonthirat Sontijirawong.
Sonthirat was accused of “causing serious disunity within the party, lacking leadership and never being there to give advice, information or consultations.” It would be “very dangerous for the party” if Sonthirat continues as its secretary-general”, a representative of the faction said.
Prayut’s statement said he did not want to blame anyone and he was well aware that it was impossible “to make everyone happy.”
“The most important thing, however, is to make the Thai people have full confidence in both the government and the opposition at the start of the genuine political reform,” the statement said. It ended with a pledge to start working as soon as possible “for the benefits of all Thais living in all parts of the country.”
Sunday, June 30, 2019: Warnings that the horrific assault on political activist Sirawith Seritiwa, known as “Ja New”, could snowball into a destructive national issue are growing louder, with the National Human Rights Commission asking the government to find the culprits quickly before the situation possibly worsens.
A leading Democrat member has called for an end to “politicisation” of the incident, which left Sirawith hospitalized, and a similar concern has been expressed by the NHRC, which condemned the unknown attackers and warned that the case could amplify national divide that has been marked by rampant hate speech online.
The panel asked the government to urgently look into the incident, find the culprits and ensure freedom of expression before the case generates unwanted consequences.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has asked the police to work quickly and full-time on the case, amid signs that rumblings of political discontent could turn into a major uproar.
Saturday, June 29, 2019: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, speaking amid reported disgruntlement among certain Palang Pracharat MPs over the Cabinet line-up, has called for an end to what he implied was unconstructive political activities.
“Every ministry is equally important,” he said in Japan in what is definitely a message to government factions disappointed with the Cabinet formation. “Never look at ministries as business companies. There are such things as Cabinet quota, but (in the end) appropriateness is the most important. There can be changes if they are to improve the quality of service to the people.”
He said he was the one making decisions and the buck stops with him. “The activities related to the Cabinet lineup should stop. Thailand has had an election and there should not be any confusion. Everything should follow the simple rule that make changes possible if they are for the better. I’m the one who make the decisions so I need everyone to understand this,” he said.
Friday, June 28, 2019: Political time bombs are already competitively ticking. The Constitution Court has accepted complaints against 32 government MPs in connection with alleged media shareholding. Similar complaints are being processed against 33 opposition MPs. The man whose case started it all, Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, has apparently been dealt a major blow in his defence after a news agency provided documentary proof that the company he had owned a big portion of shares, V-Luck Media, did receive income from media operations. Meanwhile, rumbling of dissatisfaction has been heard from the Sammitr (Three Friends) group, which forms a significant part of Prayut Chan-o-cha’s parliamentary power base, against the troubled backdrop of Cabinet formation. A push for charter changes will definitely begin soon.
Of course, Thais on the street are hearing nothing about the wobbling economy, Bangkok traffic or education disparity. In other words, which bomb going off first will have nothing to do with them, no matter what political rhetoric is being said.
Thursday, June 27, 2019: These facts are admittedly common knowledge, but whenever they are put or seen together, Prayut Chan-o-cha and his supporters can squirm without fail.
- This is a 19-party coalition government, boasting the biggest number of partners in history. And when it comes to forming a government, the more partners, the riskier.
- Despite bringing together 19 parties, the Prayut government has just four seats above the half-way line in the lower House. In other words, the government’s House of Representatives majority is ultra-fragile. Any of the parties, no matter how tiny, can cause an enormous problem if it rebels. And future occasions for rebellion will be aplenty.
- The average age of coalition governments _ each of them had far fewer than 19 partners _ is one year and a half.
- Proposed constitutional amendment was a main culprit for coalition government collapse in the past. The Democrats decided to support Prayut on one key condition _ the current charter must be amended. The opposition, meanwhile, will start pushing for constitutional amendment any day now.
- Bhumjaithai decided to support Prayut on one key condition _ legal control of marijuana must be loosened remarkably. This appears not as worrisome as the other “facts”, but who knows. Ganja can make people laugh, but Prayut can cry because of it.
- Interpretation of the Senate’s role in legislative affairs seems imminent. This is because the wafer-thin majority is too dangerous to overlook possible senatorial help. The Constitution said pieces of legislation that concern national reform must go through joint House-Senate deliberation. Pro-government figures can argue that every law is for betterment of the nation, hence it can fall into the “national reform” category. Anyway, enlisting the Senate’s help is a big danger in itself.
Wednesday, June 26, 2019: Instead of issuing stern warnings to party members following a drug arrest involving one of them, Thai Liberal (Seri Ruam Thai) leader Seripisut Temiyavej took a swipe at the military when commenting on the issue.
“We had no time to scrutinize election candidates’ backgrounds,” Seripisut said, referring to the arrest of Suban Mahachanon, a failed party list candidate of Thai Liberal. Suban was arrested a few days ago with one ton of crystal methamphetamine known as “Ice”. Two Chinese suspects were also arrested in connection with the drug Thai authorities said was about to be shipped to the Philippines.
Seripisut disowned Suban, of course, but he blamed the insufficient background checks on the military and said even the appointment of senators went through in a similar “unsystematic” process.
“It’s a personal problem,” he said of the Suban case, adding that he did not think the senatorial appointments were any better in terms of background scrutiny.
In addition, Seripisut used the occasion to lambast the Thai authorities, claiming they were picking on political opponents of the government.
Tuesday, June 25, 2019: Veteran politician Kobsak Sabhavasu has quitted the Democrat Party after over two decades with Thailand’s oldest political camp. The former deputy prime minister has had an illustrious political career, having served as deputy Democrat leader and secretary-general to the prime minister under Abhisit Vejjajiva.
He was elected Nakhon Ratchasima MP several times and wrote a few books, mostly with anti-corruption content. Before the coup against the Yingluck government, he came out to strongly criticise the Anti-Money Laundering Office, accusing it of being focused on going after government enemies.
In a brief Twitter announcement on Monday, he thanked the Democrat Party for its constant support of his work and did not give any reason for leaving. Speculation will be rife and may be partially focused on the next Bangkok gubernatorial election.
Recently, former party leader Abhisit resigned as an MP, apparently because he had been opposed to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, whose government the Democrat Party now joins.
Monday, June 24, 2019: Scores of MPs could be wiped out from the House of Representatives if the Future Forward Party’s “all-in” strategy to help its embattled leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, worked too well.
By “working too well”, several Future Forward MPs could be sacrificed too. The Palang Pracharat Party, the opposition party’s main target, is saying that Future Forward’s arguments in Thanathorn’s defence could backfire against its own (Future Forward’s) MPs.
Thanathorn is accused of owning shares in a company that listed media operations as a possible type of business. He is working on a two-prong defence. On the one hand, he insists that he sold shares in that company before registering for the March 24 election. On the other hand, Future Forward is adamant that the company in question, V-Luck Media, was not actually engaged in media businesses.
Many companies, when registering with the authorities, listed “media work” as possible future plans “just in case” and without actually doing it, Thanathorn’s defence said, adding that many other MPs on the government side are in the exact same situation.
Now, Palang Pracharat is basically saying: “If we have such MPs, you actually have more.” The ruling party is planning to submit complaints to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai against dozens of opposition MPs who have shares in companies with “dubious” purposes.
If Chuan forwarded the complaints to the political authorities, he would enhance the previously unthinkable possibility of new MPs dropping like flies.
Sunday, June 23, 2019: An opinion poll based on intense Cabinet speculation is positive about Somkid Jatusripitak as the country’s economic frontman and Democrat leader Jurin Laksanavisit as commerce minister. Dusit Poll also favors Gen Anupong Paojinda as interior minister, Suriya Juangroongruangkit as energy minister, and M.R. Chatu Mongol Sonakul as foreign minister.
Wissanu Krea-ngam is also wanted as deputy prime minister overseeing legal affairs of the government.
Somkid, in fact, is the most popular in the survey, with over 42% of respondents liking him. Wissanu came second (37.5%) and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha came third (30.6%).
A total of 1,254 people were surveyed between June 19-22.
Saturday, June 22, 2019: Will Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha become Palang Pracharat’s new leader? Who will Pheu Thai elect as its new head, who will serve concurrently as the opposition leader? Will Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit have to abandon the Future Forward helm due to the media share ownership controversy?
The three biggest parties are grappling with serious leadership issues, whereas the Democrats have “been there, done that” only recently.
In other words, Thai politics will remain interesting to watch aside from the normal headline-grabbing case of who will be in the Prayut Cabinet.
Arguably the biggest leadership issue belongs to Pheu Thai, which did not have to think about it when being in the government. Since the Constitution requires the opposition leader to come from the biggest party in the opposition bloc and to be an MP, Pheu Thai can’t have “anybody” at its helm as in the past. The opposition leader has to possess eloquence at least, something past Pheu Thai leaders did not have.
Will Sompong Amornwiwat, a Chiang Mai MP, take the job? Or will it be Bangkok MP Anudit Nakhonthap? The former is close to powerful Yaowapa Wongsawat, Thaksin Shinawatra’s sister. The latter is close to Sudarat Keyuraphan, the party’s prime ministerial candidate.
The answer, as well as the conclusions of the leadership issues of the other parties, will be known very soon.
Friday, June 21, 2019: Future Forward secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul has admitted that changing the “undemocratic” charter would be the opposition’s near-impossible task, due to the constitutional empowerment of senators in the amendment process, but said his party would be ready to initiate moves to at least educate the public about the present Constitution.
He said his party would target Article 272 that provisionally empowers the Senate to join the House of Representatives in electing the prime minister. Although the Prayut government is commanding a slim majority in the lower House without the Senate’s support, Piyabutr said the latter’s empowerment influenced decisions of the country’s elected representatives.
Another one to be targetted is Article 279, which protects “legality” of post-coup orders, according to Piyabutr.
However, he admitted that the proposed changes were all but impossible, due to required participation of the Senate in any alteration of the currently charter, which went through a public referendum and was approved rather overwhelmingly.
At least his party’s campaign for changes would create public awareness, Piyanbutr said in a newspaper interview.
Thursday, June 20, 2019: Academic Pavin Chachawalpongpun has been known to be a “red” hardcore. In exile and wanted under the 112 law, he obviously remains so, but that does not prevent a small rumbling of skepticism, considering his relentless attacks on the Future Forward Party and, well, something else.
In a Facebook post, he has shown great contempt for Future Forward spokesperson Pannika Wanich, after she came out to give a public apology regarding her past online postings that concerned the monarchy. He said something along the lines of “Lying to others is ugly, but lying to oneself is the ugliest.”
But what is more controversial is a photo Pavin posted. In it, Prayut Chan-o-cha, Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck Shinawatra and Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit were shown carrying durians in separate events. In the mixed photo, everyone except Prayut carried their durians from the stalks. Only Prayut held the body of his durian, touching the thorns.
“Look who’s willing to take pain for the public,” said Pavin’s caption. This post received a lot of comments, and several of them asked whether the activist was “changing.”
Wednesday, June 19, 2019: Party-list MPs earmarked to join the Cabinet will be asked to resign from Parliament to maintain the coalition’s wafer-thin majority in the House of Representatives, news reports said.
The resignations would allow those ranked lower in the party lists to move up and become MPs, hence ensuring the coalition’s parliamentary strength at important votings. There will not be resignations by constituency MPs, as such an approach would require by-elections that could give more parliamentary seats to the other side.
The new party-list MPs would be on hand to vote any time at crucial parliamentary sessions, which were sometimes missed in the past by MPs doubling as ministers or deputy ministers due to government obligations. Those who resign to join the Cabinet, meanwhile, could focus on working for the executive branch without having to worry about legislative games, the report said.
Tuesday, June 18, 2019: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-0-cha has given an assurance that the situation concerning the formation of his Cabinet has “stabilised”, following reports of dissatisfaction among coalition partners and certain groups in the ruling Palang Pracharat Party.
In his characteristic grumpy manner, he confirmed that his Cabinet list will be completed by the end of the month, suggesting that what remains is mostly formality, like background checks. “The list is all there and it’s being stabilised now. Why can’t it be? It involves just 36 positions,” he said.
Asked if there will be many “outsiders” in the Cabinet, Prayut replied: “Not many”.
Asked if he would double as defence minister, he said: “I don’t know that yet. (But) what’s wrong with me?”
He added that those aspiring to be in the Cabinet but finally being left out would be asked to help in another capacity.
Asked if he would remain a “temporary” politician or play long-term, permanent politics, he replied: “I will always be Prayut Chan-o-cha, so I don’t see the differences.” The question was related to the mounting speculation that he would be invited to be the new leader of the Palang Pracharat Party.
Monday, June 17, 2019: “Avengers” makers can make greater fortunes charging political parties around the world for using their famous celluloid brand. Thailand’s Democrat Party is among the latest to have done so, having introduced an economic “Avenger” team.
The group, bringing together economic experts on several fields and led by Prinn Panitchpakdi, son of economic guru Supachai Panitchpakdi, will focus on studies into economic platforms of the new digitally-driven era, new energies, labour skill improvement, and how Thailand’s economic “backbones” like farmers can make better use of the technology. Its findings will be incorporated into the party’s economic stand and policy. Unfair or outdated laws will also be looked into.
Sunday, June 16, 2019: The Siam Commercial Bank’s latest, detailed report on Thailand’s corruption should convince Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha how he should prioritize his work. The bank said the biggest obstacle to national development is political corruption, which has raised project costs markedly while they should have been cheaper, discouraged foreign investment and “devalued” spending of state budgets.
The bank noted that in 1996, Thailand was ranked 103rd among 187 countries on the table of Control of Corruption Index devised by the World Bank. In 2017, the country was 120th on the 209-nation CCI table.
The political divide has intensified nasty horse-trading, which most analysts believe would make corruption more rampant and harder to control.
The bank proposes greater access to the government’s investment information, stressing that graft would be easier to detect when the general public could monitor crucial figures in detail.
Saturday, June 15, 2019: Political enemies give Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha warnings everyday, but he may ignore Chaturon Chaisang’s caution at his own risks.
Chaturon, who has missed out on Parliament due to the dissolution of the Thai Raksa Chart Party, is warning that if Prayut decides to be the leader, or even a member, of the Palang Pracharat Party, the newly-elected prime minister may lose his military backing completely.
Chaturon was commenting on a rumbling of news reports, to which Prayut was yet to reply. The venteran politician did not give any example, but the steadily declining military clout of Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who once reigned supreme over the Thai Armed Forces, came to mind.
Chavalit led a political party but he finally ended up being overshadowed by shrewd politicians.
According to Chaturon, it was a no brainer who has bigger powers _ one who led a coup and has military on his side, or one who leads a political party. “If he becomes a party leader, there will be no solid ground for him to stand on. This is interesting time for Gen Prayut,” Chaturon said.
Friday, June 14, 2019: Veteran politician Chalerm Yoobamrung has been adamant in his Facebook post that Parliament’s election of Prayut Chan-o-cha as prime minister was unconstitutional.
Citing a Supreme Court ruling two years ago, which deemed coup leaders “government officials” who had full authority to summon a journalist considered to be a national security threat, Chalerm said the judiciary was clear-cut regarding the status of the coup party. The court ruling said the coup leaders had the status of state officials when they summoned the journalist for interrogation and “attitude adjustment”.
As the Constitution was clear that state officials could not be elected prime minister, Prayut’s election was unconstitutional, Chalerm wrote.
The issue was raised by the opposition before Prayut was elected, but easily rejected by the pro-Prayut alliance which was supported by the Senate.
Thursday, June 13, 2019: Will there be more for Prayut Chan-o-cha? A news report has claimed that the man who was recently elected prime minister by Parliament could become new leader of Palang Pracharat Party, replacing Uttama Savanayana.
Watch out for a party meeting meeting in July, the report said. In that meeting, Prayut, who was the party’s prime ministerial candidate, will be nominated as the new leader, it said.
There can be an election of the party’s new secretary-general as well, according to the report, with Nattapon Theepsuwan, a party list top man, tipped to be nominated as replacement for Sontirat Sontijirawong.
However, skeptics say Prayut can still choose to “stay on the fence”. If Prayut’s nomination does take place and he accepts it, he can become a “full-scale” politician, and most signals so far have not been in favour of that possibility.
Wednesday, June 12, 2019: With heavyweight politicians in the Pheu Thai and now-dissolved Thai Raksachart parties not in Parliament and the fate of Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongkit hanging in the balance, the opposition will miss attractive, colourful speakers at parliamentary debates and will have to rely mainly on stinging information during censures, analysts say.
Censure debates in the past depended a lot on big-name speakers, who were even scheduled to speak during TV prime time to attract viewers and thus media and public interests. Hard-hitting information was usually saved for those speakers as well. Without the likes of Chalerm Yoobamrung, Sudarat Keyuraphan and Jaturon Chaisaeng, a new parliamentary strategy will have to be adopted, and the media can benefit from that, as reporters will likely get more pre-debate information than they usually got in the past.
Good news for the opposition is that the Prayut government will be closely watched, and the need for high-profile debaters will not be as much as before. Future Forward’s rising-star status can also raise anticipation for its speakers. Moreover, with the government side commanding a very slim majority, its problem is more threatening than the opposition’s.
Tuesday, June 11, 2019: Having lost out to Prayut Chan-o-cha in the race for the prime ministerial post, Pheu Thai is grappling with a secondary problem, which has to do with the position of opposition leader.
Three candidates are up for consideration. Chiang Mai MP Sompong Amornwiwat, at 78, is well respected and close to powerful Yaowapa Wongsawat, who is Thaksin Shinawatra’s sister. Bangkok MP Anudit Nakhonthap is close to Sudarat Keyuraphan, the party heavyweight who was a prime ministerial candidate until she missed out on Parliament in a party list debacle. Pairote Lohsunthorn, a Lampang MP, is the most senior candidate at 83.
With Sompong known to be close to Yaowapa, many wondered why he is not a “locked-in” opposition leader. That Anudit’s name is being proposed might suggest some infighting, some analysts said. Anudit is also widely tipped to be a new party leader.
Male politicians are competing for the post of opposition leader, but are they part of a female power struggle?
Monday, June 10, 2019: Pannika Wanich will be the name people hear about from now on, and increasingly, adding to the legal trouble facing the Future Forward Party. Her past online postings are coming back to bite her and the camp big time, with police vowing to investigate the party’s spokeswoman’s digital activities, many of which were carried out during the reign of King Rama the Ninth, when she was graduating and when she worked as a Voice TV reporter.
After party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and party secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Pannika is the third big name of Future Forward to face public and official scrutiny over “ideological” stands. And of the trio, she left arguably the clearest trail of controversy.
She is facing a scrutiny related to postings that were undeniably hers. She is claiming that she is a victim of a political mudslinging. However, her accusers insist that her postings spoke for themselves.
(Her picture is , from Future Forward’s official Facebook account)
Sunday, June 9, 2019: Pavin Chachawalpongpun’s campaign against Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, his friend-turned-foe, is continuing unabated. In a Facebook post, he said the popular party’s most recent function at the Thammasat University reeked of elitist attitudes and insincerity about reconciliation.
Pavin gave three main reasons to back up his claim. First, the function is everything a hi-so event needs to be _ featuring invited celebrities, showcasing modern, luxurious and sophisticated looks and filled with “people showing off beautiful dresses”. Second, the presence of “the same old faces” mocked Thanathorn’s reconciliation “rhetoric”. Third, despite Thanathorn’s “reaching out” pledge, repeated several times during his speech, the politician does not seem to heed different opinions.
The Facebook post is hard-hitting and full of words like “vomit” and “bull….”
Pavin is a hardcore ideological leftist, whom the Thai authorities have been after for alleged violations of Article 112. Now overseas, he turned against Thanathorn before the election, saying the latter’s attempt to appeal to the young, sophisticated generation has muddied the party’s proclaimed ideology. A major conflict first erupted between them when Pavin considered Thanathorn as trying to sidestep an issue of a BNK group singer who appeared in a Prayut government event.
Saturday, June 8, 2019: The idea that former Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva would run in the next Bangkok gubernatorial election was mooted soon after he decided to quit as an MP a few days ago to reiterate his anti-Prayut stand. It does not seem far-fetched, and political analysts have begun looking into the question of whether he would compete independently or under the Democrat banner.
Abhisit would be a fearsome competitor against Pheu Thai’s potential candidate Chatchart Sittipun. But will Abhisit concentrate on rebuilding his name? Or will he also try to help the Democrat Party bring back its glory days in Bangkok?
Thailand’s capital is always tied firmly to national politics. Its gubernatorial contests often yielded strong clues on what the middle class likes or does not like on the national scale. The last Bangkok gubernatorial election, won by the Democrats, was eventually decided by the national political divide, propelling Sukhumbhand Paribatra to a second term despite heavy criticism against his work.
Friday, June 7, 2019: Remember the yellow shirts? The People’s Alliance for Democracy, which staged prolonged protests against the Thaksin government about a decade ago, has been inactive over the years but Prayut Chan-o-cha can ignore its warning at his own risks.
The movement, which deemed Thaksin corrupt and disrespectful of checks and balances, said Prayut could face the same mass anger if the prime minister allows his government to be tainted by corruption.
Its former spokesman Panthep Puapongpan warned that Prayut must not tackle government corruption in the “typical” way _ in other words transferring the accused elsewhere or dissolving Parliament to escape censure. “The prime minister can do that, and, moreover, he has senators on his side in case he needs to be re-elected,” Panthep said. “But he shall not underestimate public anger when it comes to corruption. When the people think the parliamentary system can’t help them, they will hit the streets.”
Thursday, June 6, 2019: Political activist Srisuwan Janya, who has caused the Future Forward Party some legal troubles, is planning to give it a new one. He said the party’s repeated charges, re-emphasized on Wednesday as Parliament was set to elect the prime minister, had to do with a political crime too serious to let go.
The party charged that up to Bt120 million was offered to any Future Forward MP ready to be a turncoat, or “cobra”, in the fight to form a government. Such a bribe was a big constitutional crime, and the offender can be banished from politics and the respective party dissolved, Srisuwan said.
“On the other hand, if the charge was proven to be untrue and cooked up for political purposes, the accusers themselves can receive political bans and the respective party can be dissolved,” he said, after Parliament elected Prayut Chan-o-cha as prime minister. The activist vowed to ask the Election Commission to find out what the case was.
Wednesday, June 5, 2019: Today is the day that sums up Thai politics, where political games and technical problems plaguing individuals are the only priority of Parliament, filled with elected representatives and appointees.
Abhisit Vejjajiva resigned as a party list MP because of a “principle” that had nothing to do with poor education, low labour skills, Bangkok traffic and rampant drug abuse. Opponents of Prayut Chan-o-cha attacked his military links, again something irrelevant to real problems of real people. Critics of Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit slammed his personal trouble, while paying zero attention on the big, national picture.
Parliament opened its crucial session in the morning to elect the post-election prime minister. Debate went on and on for hours on Prayut and Thanathorn. It focused on their qualities _ or lack of them. It’s a political showdown with the stake being what some politicians will gain and others will lose.
One social media post probably speaks for many.
“We should lock the door and keep them all inside. They then can debate their problems as long as they want and things can get better out here,” the post says.
Tuesday, June 4, 2019: Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit as a prime ministerial nominee is obviously a rearguard battle with a slim chance of winning, news websites said analytically. Much of the analysis was drawn from Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai, who said frustratingly: “Who can compete with that?”
He was referring to the fact that the Pheu Thai alliance has had a lot of prime ministerial candidates miss qualifying as party list MPs, whereas one respectable figure who got elected, Seripisut Temiyavej, does not lead a party with many MPs.
This leaves Thanathorn, who despite a court-ordered suspension from parliamentary duty, has not been found guilty and is still an MP unless proven otherwise.
“Of course, Pheu Thai has come first in the election,” Phumtham said, responding to the question if it was appropriate for the “winner” to abandon its right to nominate one of its own as a prime ministerial candidate. “But I think the people understand our circumstances. We have come to this point because of twisted rules,” he said.
Monday, June 3, 2019: Newly-elected House Speaker Chuan Leekpai said he had full respect for late Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda as a patriot and, not least, as a human being.
In an online post, Chuan said he and several politicians often went under the media radar to visit Prem, who he said treated everyone with compassion and kindness.
“Apart from his patriotic determination to serve the country, he always loved and trusted us. When he was with us [southern politicians], he spoke to us in southern dialect. When any of us was in trouble, he helped with his own money. I knew that for a fact, because many times I was the one who brought the money to the one in trouble. After we went separate ways, I met him at official functions, and he would ask how each one of us was doing, including those who were not there,” Chuan wrote.
Sunday, June 2, 2019: A Dusit Poll survey has found that Thai people are bored of political games in the wake of the general election, which they think have delayed the formation of the new government at the expense of public interests.
Of more than 1,100 Thais surveyed last week, a vast majority of them, close to 70 per cent, do not believe that conflicts or disagreements stemmed from genuine concern for the well-being of the people. The respondents blamed the delay on failures to agree on how to share the cake.
Asked what they want from the “big parties”, top on the respondents’ wish list is real concern for public interests, respect for the laws and quick formation of the government.
The majority of respondents said what they want medium-sized and small parties to keep election promises, avoid muddying the waters and be determined to serve the people and not become bigger parties’ tools.
Saturday, June 1, 2019: In a statement that can be seen as either defiant or indicative of what will transpire when Parliament elects the prime minister four days from now, Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit claimed the “new generation” power will sweep away Thai conservatism in the near future.
“People who are twenty-something today are taking over as reporters, doctors, dentists, architects, activists and farmers’ leaders. All of them _ coming to the fore in the number of 700,000 every year _ have a common ideology (which is pro-freedom and anti-conservatism). This means time is on our side,” he said in a published interview.
He has asserted himself as a prime ministerial nominee, but his media share ownership case which has caused his suspension as an MP and the fact that Palang Pracharat has the support of senators when Parliament votes to elect the prime minister on June 5, mean his chances are very slim.
The defiant statement, therefore, can be seen as a pledge for a long-term ideological struggle rather than making June 5 an endgame for his alliance.
Friday, May 31, 2019: Democrat leader Jurin Laksanavisit today spoke out on the biggest question. While seemingly still keeping his party’s options open regarding whether or not it should join a Palang Pracharat government, he said said the Democrats have not discussed their crucial future because they want the pro-Prayut party to get its house in order first.
“We have postponed our meeting because Palang Pracharat needs time to get a consensus (within the party)” Jurin said.
But he stopped short of saying that if Palang Pracharat manages to get a consensus and invite the Democrats to join it, his party would do so.
“Everything will go according to proper procedures,” he told reporters. “We need to delay our discussions because, let me be honest about it, Palang Pracharat has to settle its problems first. After that, we can decide on what we will do, whether it is joining the government or something else.”
On the question whether Palang Pracharat’s support for Chuan Leekpai’s successful nomination as the House speaker was a “down payment”, Jurin said: “Every vote and every nomination are up to individual parties to decide.”
Thursday, May 30, 2019: Pheu Thai chief election strategist Sudarat Keyuraphan has vowed to decline her possible nomination as prime ministerial candidate, saying the “democratic game” would not accept such a nomination.
“People are trying to find fault on everything, so it’s better for me to stay away,” said Sudarat, who is one of the Pheu Thai casualties in the new vote counting system. Her nomination would need support from the majority of the Senate, something impossible. The Senate, if called upon, will vote for incumbent Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
This further limited choices of the Pheu Thai alliance, as another key candidate, Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, is facing the possibility of prolonged political ban in connection with his share ownership controversy.
Wednesday, May 29, 2019: Never assume that the fight to form a coalition government is over. There are messages and signs from both rival camps that the race is still very much on.
One sign has come from the Democrats, who despite having one of their own elected as the House speaker a few days ago, have cancelled a meeting to discuss their future and have been vague on resurfacing rumours that their former leader Abhisit Vejjajiva would resign as an MP if the party decides to support Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Another sign has come from their loose “ally”, the Bhumjaithai Party, which has continued to flip-flop on its announcement about joining the Palang Pracharat alliance.
This coincides with Pheu Thai secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai’s defiant message that “it ain’t over yet. We shall not give up”.
Palang Pracharat, meanwhile, admitted problems are deterring its attempt to form a government. The problems apparently have something to do with Cabinet quotas. Palang Pracharat members are thinking their party is bending over backward to please the Democrats and Bhumjaithai and their disgruntlement is simmering. The Democrats and Bhumjaithai, obviously, are thinking they deserve more.
A parliamentary vote to elect the prime minister is days away. To add to a prevalent sense of uncertainty, notoriously outspoken politician-turned-political-commentator Chuwit Kamolvisit claimed the country could be witnessing a Parliament with the shortest lifespan.
Tuesday, May 28, 2019: With the Democrats yet to officially say who they will support as the next prime minister, speculation about Abhisit Vejjajiva’s political future has refused to die down.
Abhisit had quitted as Democrat leader and been replaced by Jurin Laksanavisit, but despite the party getting support from Palang Pracharat leading to Chuan Leekpai becoming the House speaker over the weekend, Thailand’s oldest party has yet to be clear-cut about its immediate future. All the while, rumours have resurfaced about Abhisit planning to resign as an MP if his party backs Prayut Chan-o-cha as prime minister.
The Democrats were supposed to make up their minds in the evening, but continued delay fuelled the Abhisit rumours, which few had believed. He might yet remain an MP regardless of the party’s final decision, but the longer the delay, the more reliable news reports about the Democrats being bitterly split.
Monday, May 27, 2019: Red shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan has asked his followers to remember two things in particular about late Prem Tinsulanonda _ the peaceful end to the confrontation with the Communist Party of Thailand and his refusal to go on as unelected prime minister after eight years.
“We are all Buddhists and we need to look at every action of a person,” Jatuporn said during a Peace TV forum.
Red shirt activists are not Prem’s biggest fans, blaming him primarily for the ordeal of Thaksin Shinawatra. Many were present when Jatuporn was being taped doing the Peace TV talk.
Jatuporn used to be aggressively outspoken against Prem in the past, but he has toned down his overall ideological attitude significantly lately.
Sunday, May 26, 2019: The margin of defeat is narrow, but the Pheu Thai camp’s failure in its bid to install one of its own as the first deputy House speaker came hot on the heels of its bigger loss on Saturday. It has been a bad weekend for the alliance, which is hanging on for dear life in its attempt to muster a House of Representatives majority and thus proclaim a legitimacy to form a coalition government.
Palang Pracharat nominee Suchart Tancharoen beat Future Forward candidate Yaowalak Wongpraparat 248 to 246 votes to clinch the position of the first deputy House speaker. On Saturday, the Pheu Thai alliance lost to the Palang Pracharat camp in an election of the House speaker, getting just 235 votes against the other side’s 258.
Simply put, the Pheu Thai alliance has been unable to flex a parliamentary muscle in the crucial votes to elect the House speaker and first deputy House speaker.
How the Democrats and Palang Pracharat voted in the House speaker and deputy House speaker elections were remarkable. This is despite the fact that the Democrats have not officially announced who they will support as the prime minister.
Saturday, May 25, 2019: It was a good day for the Palang Pracharat Party in the race to form a government. Chuan Leekpai of the Democrat Party, thanks to support from Palang Pracharat, was elected House speaker, beating a Pheu Thai candidate. The Bhumjaithai Party has virtually confirmed it would be backing Prayut Chan-o-cha as prime minister. Political rising star of the Pheu Thai camp, Thanathorn Juangroonruangkit, was ushered out of Parliament, signalling the beginning of what might turn out to be a long political suspension.
Chuan beat Sompong Amornvivat of the Pheu Thai Party 258-235 in what could potentially signal how the vote to elect the prime minister goes. The Democrat Party said it has not received any invitation to join the next government, but the statement was made in the softest manner in weeks.
Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul all but confirmed his party would support Palang Pracharat, although he did not mention the main party’s name. “Minor details are still needed to be sorted out,” he said, when asked about his party’s stand. He added that he was responding to public wishes and was eager to make his party’s election promises come true.
Friday, May 24, 2019: The Democrats have made what appeared to be a very smart move. They decided to nominate Chuan Leekpai for the position of House speaker, something that will be decided this weekend and will go a long way toward determining which rival camp is winning the race to form a coalition government.
The Pheu Thai alliance declared its unity today and all but cleared doubts over Mingkwan Sangsuwan, who had resigned as the leader of the New Economics Party the other day. Mingkwan joined a show of force of the seven-party alliance, which vowed to vote in harmony in the election of the House speaker.
The Palang Pracharat camp, meanwhile, has sent out mixed signals on who it would support as the House speaker. Certain reports suggested that it was willing to help the Democrats get the position, but others claimed it would back its own candidate.
Chuan could end up getting support from both rival camps. The Democrats, who said today they did not yet decide who they would support as the next prime minister, will watch the vote closely although it’s hard to tell friends from foes these days.
Reports said Chuan was at first unwilling to be a House speaker candidate, and he needed to be heavily persuaded by top Democrats.
Thursday, May 23, 2019: The leaders of two parties in the Pheu Thai alliance have suffered big, separate setbacks. Mingkwan Sangsuwan of the New Economics Party has quit its helm with obvious problems concerning funding and some insubordination, but he will remain its member and MP. Thanathorn Jungroongruangkit of the Future Forward Party has been ordered to suspend his parliamentary duty by the Constitution Court after it accepted for further consideration the Election Commission’s media share ownership case against him.
In a tight race to form a government, the two men’s ordeals could benefit the other camp, led by the Palang Pracharat Party, which nominates Prayut Chan-o-cha as the next prime minister. Thanathorn would not be able to vote in the selection of prime minister, and Mingkwan is already deemed a “traitor” by supporters of the Pheu Thai camp. The latter can still vote against Prayut, but his decision to quit as New Economics leader seemed to have something to do with the contentious question of which side he would support.
In a Facebook farewell statement, Mingkwan said he remained committed to promises given to the people, and those promises include determination to serve all pillars of Thailand to the best of his ability.
Thanathorn’s gloves came off on learning the Constitution Court’s admission of the EC case. He said his case was moving “suspiciously quickly”, and vowed to fight “alongside the people a dictatorship which is seeing its last days.” Thanathorn had presented himself as a prime ministerial candidate, and he said today that nothing has changed that plan. He did not elaborate how he would continue as a prime ministerial candidate in spite of the Constitution Court’s order.
On the brink of being an “outsider”, Thanathorn’s ambition to be a prime ministerial candidate has been dealt a serious blow. Other key figures of the Pheu Thai camp have also missed out being MPs, leaving it struggling to find proper prime ministerial candidates.
Wednesday, May 22, 2019: The so-called “Third Force”, or a loose alliance between the Democrats and Bhumjaithai Party, can do _ or end up doing _ one of the following:
– With 103 votes altogether, they can join the Palang Pracharat camp, give it a simple House of Representatives majority and turn it into a government coalition. The Democrats may get the House speaker post while Bhumjaithai will have its way on marijuana plans. It goes without saying that the two parties will be awarded some key ministerial positions.
How much they get depends on bargaining skills.
– They can join the Pheu Thai camp and give it a comfortable House of Representatives majority. This will most likely not be enough when the other side enlists the help of the Senate in installing the next prime minister. However, the Pheu Thai camp boosted by Bhumjaithai and Democrats will give its rivals all sorts of administrative and legislative problems.
Problem is, Bhumjaithai and Democrats may end up being unrewarded and additionally will have to look over their shoulders all the time, as a “windfall” can go to the likes of the New Economics Party that can still “steal it” by sneaking onto the Prayut bandwagon.
The most important thing in this scenario is that joining Pheu Thai does not guarantee being in a government, because of the Senate factor.
– The loose alliance can spurn both rival camps and present itself as a core in government formation. Again, it has to overcome simple mathematics and the Senate, a battle it is unlikely to win.
Another problem is that this is pretty much like the second scenario. Ignoring both Palang Pracharat and Pheu Thai camps virtually means deciding to be in the opposition, which may still include the Pheu Thai camp. The “Third Force” , thus, will be seen as giving tacit backing to the Pheu Thai alliance. To both parties, that is a big deal when their futures are concerned.
Tuesday, May 21, 2019: With 103 votes altogether, the Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties are keeping the Palang Pracharat camp and Pheu Thai alliance sweating over which side they would join and turn it into a coalition government.
“We are not rushing” is practically the Democrat main message under new leader Jurin Laksanivisit. “We won’t support Palang Pracharat if it can’t gather the simple majority votes in the House of Representatives” is Bhumjaithai’s.
Problem for Bhumjaithai _ apparently more so for Palang Pracharat _ is that without votes from Anutin Charnvirakul’s party, Palang Pracharat won’t be able to get the House of Representatives majority.
It could be that Bhumjaithai is waiting for the Democrats to make their decision. Or it could be the other way round. Or it could be both. All the while, Palang Pracharat, knowing that it has most of the 250-strong Senate on its side, can keep bluffing.
The only thing that is certain is that both Bhumjaithai and the Democrats are playing hard to get, and that offers or incentives for joining the eventual winning side will be increasingly attractive.
Monday, May 20, 2019: To simplify the latest controversy involving Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s “loan” to his own party, critics describe it as an unconstitutional “income” while his party deems it an unavoidable “expense”.
He loaned his party a lot of money during the election campaign. If that is considered the party’s “income”, it could be against the law which restricts how a political party gets its money. Donations, fund-raising and membership fees are primarily what are allowed by laws.
But the party has insisted that it has to pay back the loan plus interests, therefore it should be classified as an expense, not an income.
The rest of the party’s and Thanathorn’s line of argument is that the loan was necessary because political uncertainties limited the ability to raise funds for the election.
Now that the accused has classified the loan as an “expense”, the accusers might look at another part of the laws, which seem to have tough conditions against political parties using their money to pay back loans.
Sunday, May 19, 2019: Embattled Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit may have thrown caution to the wind, legally, with his latest moves. Already embroiled in legal controversies, he could be courting more trouble with a speech last week at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand.
He said two things that legal advisors would not have wanted him to. First, he said that Palang Pracharat offered his mother a legal escape (from the media share ownership scandal) if the Future Forward Party agreed to allow 20 of its MPs to go rogue and support the pro-Prayut party.
That kind of claim, video-taped and posted on mainstream news sites, could subject him to Palang Pracharat’s libel suit, of which compensation money would not be the objective. Moreover, the claim implied Palang Pracharat and judges were working in cahoot and thus could be considered a contempt of court.
The FCCT speech also mentioned that he loaned his party Bt110 million during the election campaign due to fund-raising problems. This might not be such a big surprise and what he did with the party financially could be a normal, albeit unspoken, practice among rich party owners, actually, but it’s not a wise thing to say it publicly all the same. It is known that a lot of legal experts on the opposite side are drooling over this disclosure already.
Saturday, May 18, 2019: Pheu Thai members have apparently been divided over whether their party should go all-out to woo arch-rival Democrats. In a bid to prevent the Palang Pracharat Party from forming a coalition government and installing Prayut Chan-o-cha as the post-election prime minister, Pheu Thai has been swallowing its pride and sending Thailand’s oldest party an olive branch. This has split up Pheu Thai members themselves.
News reports said that, at a meeting before the weekend, many Pheu Thai MPs voiced their concern about what would be a shocking and highly-controversial alliance. They gave four main reasons.
Firstly, even without the Democrats, Palang Pracharat would still win the race to form a government through the help of senators. Secondly, Pheu Thai has the biggest number of MPs and the party should have dignity and not stoop so low as offering the position of House of Representatives speaker to the Democrats. Thirdly, any partnership with the Democrats would be fragile and the latter could backstab Pheu Thai any time. Fourthly, Pheu Thai should be patient and let Palang Pracharat have its day for now, as there’s a virtue in the old Thai saying that the one who laughs later, laughs louder.
Friday, May 17, 2019: If Prayut Chan-o-cha was rattled by the Future Forward Party’s surprising announcement that it was ready to form a government, it didn’t show. The prime minister either is a good poker player or has below-par advisers, as his comments today were unlikely to please his potential allies. Firstly, he suggested he wanted close control of key ministries including Defence, Interior, Finance and Transport. Secondly, he said he would love to keep working with controversial pal Prawit Wongsuwan.
The ministerial suggestion would turn off the Democrat Party in particular. Thailand’s oldest party would also look at the Prawit comment with dismay. Recent reports claimed that Prayut was all Palang Pracharat’s allies could take in a new government. Other remnants of military influences in politics could make potential allies of the Palang Pracharat Party turn away, the reports said.
Prayut, Palang Pracharat’s prime ministerial nominee, admitted that negotiations were going on regarding the Finance and Transport ministries. From his comment, Defence and Interior ministries were definitely wanted by Palang Pracharat.
To be fair, Prayut might just want to sound polite when asked about the possibility of having Prawit in the Cabinet. “Of course, I would love to keep working with him, as we trust each other. But much will depend on his health and whether he wants to keep working hard,” Prayut said.
Thursday, May 16, 2019: If it was a poker game, all the chips were now on the table, but everybody was holding his or her cards close to the chests. In previous elections, it would have been known by now who was poised to be prime minister. This time, bet on Prayut Chan-o-cha at your own risks.
A lot of comments were made today by key political players. Some were bluffs, others either suggestive or un-indicative. Interpret them if you have plenty of free time:
Prayut Chan-o-cha: “I don’t know if I will definitely come back. Parliament doesn’t even reopen yet.”
Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul: “Nobody has approached us (on forming the government). We will announce our stand on May 20.”
Palang Pracharat secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong: “We are waiting as well. We don’t know what resolutions will be made by the Bhumjaithai and Democrat parties. But don’t worry, we will do our best.”
Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit: “I’m not bothered about the EC (Election Commission) forwarding my share ownership case to the Constitution Court. I’m ready to go and play politics. I’m ready to be the prime minister.”
Everyone was remarkably silent on reports that Palang Pracharat has hooked up with new Democrat leader Jurin Laksanavisit. It was claimed that Jurin would take “the offer” to the new Democrat board. A decision is expected soon.
Wednesday, May 15, 2019: It seems that Thaksin Shinawatra planning to take over Crystal Palace is way beyond being just a rumour now, with several news outlets both in Thailand and overseas reporting about it. They said negotiations did take place.
Local football analysts are also giving reasons why it is Crystal Palace. Here are some of them:
– It’s a London club. The location speaks for itself.
– It’s a Premier League club. Apart from being in London, Crystal Palace are in the Premier League, and they are the only London-based Premier League club available for sale.
– At 150 million pounds, the discussed price, it’s cheap and can be resold for a lot more money. Thaksin bought Manchester City at just about 80 million pounds over 10 years ago, when the club’s profile was like that of Crystal Palace today. A few years later, he resold Manchester City to an Arab billionaire and friend at a price that was almost twice as much.
– There are a few Crystal Palace stars on many clubs’ lists of transfer targets. Wilfried Zaha is one of them. Sell him and Thaksin would potentially recoup half of his investment already.
– If Crystal Palace are not to be resold, the mid-table club are in a good position to be strengthened and become a serious second-tier team, after the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspurs.
Tuesday, May 14, 2019: England’s mass circulation The Sun has triggered what can be a new Thaksin frenzy. The paper has jumped on speculation that former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was preparing to buy English Premier League club Crystal Palace.
Quoting Goal, a major football media outlet, The Sun said Thaksin has made contact with Palace chairman Steve Parish and is prepared to buy the club for around £150million. The paper went on to say that Thaksin was prepared to spend big to help current manager Roy Hodgson improve the squad and look to break into the top ten of the Premier League table.
Miti Tiyapairat, ex-president of Thai top-flight side Chiangrai United, was quoted as saying that a deal was expected to be concluded soon. He was quoted as saying: “Currently, there are negotiations about price, management, and some other details, which should be ironed out soon.” Miti even hinted he could be part of the new regime at Selhurst Park under Thaksin, The Sun said.
“I’m up for the task,” he was quoted as saying.
A Thai business newspaper has reported that negotiations, primary or else, have even begun on the purchase of Crystal Palace, a team with some Bt5.8 billion income. English media haven’t reported on that.
Crystal Palace were a mid-table Premier League team, but then again, so were Manchester City when Thaksin bought the outfits over 10 years ago. The Manchester team were sold to an Arab billionaire just a few years afterwards. Look at where Manchester City are now.
Thaksin’s short reign at Manchester City did not end well, with large sections of fans criticising his style of management and the club not showing him respect on its official website. When he was in charge of the club, there were also controversies regarding his human rights records while being prime minister in Thailand.
One thing is certain: Thaksin has more than enough money to buy Crystal Palace and spend big on player transfers.
Sunday, May 12, 2019: Former prime minister and former Democrat leader Chuan Leekpai has asked members of his party to respect the decision by their to-be-elected new leadership on the future of Thailand’s oldest political camp.
Reports say the Democrats were being wooed to support the Pheu Thai alliance, but a sizeable number of core party members are in favour of joining a Palang Pracharat-led government. Chuan called on party members to stop discussing both issues in public to avoid creating confusions.
“The party’s resolution, to be made by the new leaders, must be respected,” Chuan said, in a rare public statement on the contentious matter of what role the Democrats should play in the new Parliament. “If the resolution says one thing and party members do something else, there will be trouble. What everyone should do now is wait for the new executives to make the final decision. And when the decision is made, everyone should respect it.”
The new leadership will be elected by the Democrats this week.
Saturday, May 11, 2019: If anyone had said in 2011 that some “red shirts” would back Abhisit Vejjajiva as prime minister, he or she would have been committed. Not under the current political circumstances, though. The Puea Chat Party, proclaiming itself as representing the red shirts, is now saying that it would welcome Abhisit as the new chief executive if his Democrat Party joined the Pheu Thai-led alliance fighting to form a government.
The bombshell statement has been made by deputy Puea Chat spokesman. It must have received approval from red-shirted flag bearer Jatuporn Prompan but whether the Pheu Thai Party totally agreed with that remained unclear.
Also, Abhisit is not in a position to decline or accept such a proposal. Thailand’s oldest party is scheduled to elect his replacement in a few days, who along with a new board would decide what to do regarding its role in Parliament.
Friday, May 10, 2019: Standing between Prayut Chan-o-cha and his return to power could be Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan. News reports, quoting Palang Pracharat sources, have claimed that the party’s potential allies in the race to form a post-election government do not want Prawit to be anywhere near the new Cabinet.
In fact, the reports claimed the prospective allies would accept Prayut as the only remnant of the 2014 coup and military rule of the past few years. They wouldn’t accept any other personality who would indicate that military influences were being kept past the election.
No ally name was given, but under the present circumstances, one or two allies making that condition is enough to rattle Palang Pracharat, who needs every vote available in order to form a government.
Prawit was an unpopular figure in the current military-backed Cabinet, largely because of the “luxury watches” scandal that has been hounding him.
Jockeying for key Cabinet posts has also reportedly begun, with Palang Pracharat facing demands for big economic portfolios from potential allies, it was reported. In other words, rival camps fighting to form a government are entering the most difficult period _ dividing the cake (bargaining) with prospective partners.
Thursday, May 9, 2019: A political party having just one MP would be certainly discarded by the big fish in the past, but in the “every-seat-counts” political climate of the present day, everyone is the kingmaker. With the Election Commission’s method of party list calculation receiving an apparent legal green-light, there can be over 10 such kingmakers now.
There are 11 small parties emerging from the official announcement of election results. That’s 11 previous votes that can make or break attempts by the two rival alliances _ the Palang Pracharat-led camp and the Pheu Thai-led coalition _ to form a post election government. Latest reports have it those tiny parties would back Palang Pracharat’s bid, but no official announcement has been made.
Support by the small parties would give the Palang Pracharat camp a very slim House of Representatives majority, assuming the Democrats are on board, too. Thailand’s oldest party is scheduled to make a formal decision on its future next week.
Wednesday, May 8, 2019: Suchart Tancharoen of the Palang Pracharat Party, a favourite candidate for the House speaker post, has said that Thailand’s new Constitution strongly supports “independence” of MPs, meaning their parties can’t force them to vote against their wills.
Suchart, speaking while reporting himself as an election winner, called for an end to the “cobra” label which is often applied to MPs who don’t listen to party instructions when it comes to voting on major issues.
“This Constitution is clear on the status of MPs as representatives of the people, not any group of individuals,” Suchart said. “This gives them full independence on decision-making in Parliament.”
Whether he was implying that MPs could rebel against their parties during the crucial voting to elect the new prime minister was up to anyone’s interpretation.
Tuesday, May 7, 2019: A new controversy has emerged involving Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s ownership of shares, but this time his party is confident that if constitutional rules are to be strictly applied, newly elected MPs will drop like flies.
He is reported to have own more “media shares” other than V-Luck Media stocks when he applied for electoral candidacy. The companies involved, according to an Isranews report, declared “publishing newspapers” as one of their operational plans when the big firms were registered. However, it is the Future Forward Party’s belief that many companies did so when they registered with the authorities, primarily to give themselves options when main businesses go bust, and election candidates of other parties also owned shares in such firms during the electoral candidacy registration period.
The Future Forward Party has resorted to two main arguments in defence of Thanathorn. The first one, widely publicised, is that he transferred V-Luck Media shares to his mother before registering as an election candidate. The second one, far less publicised, is that a crackdown on media share ownership must follow the will of the Constitution, therefore companies that have no real “media operations” or are involved in merely trivial or insignificant media operations should not be taken into account when the Election Commission considers “qualifications” of election candidates.
The second line of argument was used by the party long before Isranews reported today that Thanathorn owned shares in the Thai Summit Rayong Autoparts Industry Co Ltd and Thai Summit Ban Poh Co Ltd. Both companies had “publishing newspapers” as one of their operational plans.
Thanathorn has yet to comment on the latest disclosure , which could spark fresh controversies encompassing several parties.
Monday, May 6, 2019: Thai politics is set to peak again this week with the Election Commission poised to announce the final election results after the winding down of the Royal Coronation ceremony. The climax will be amplified by severe political conflicts, lawsuits and charges and counter-charges related to the EC as well as new political star Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.
The EC’s deputy secretary-general, Nat Laosisavakul, has said that the long-awaited poll results would be officially announced separately on Tuesday and Wednesday, with constituency MPs to be announced first before the number of party-list MPs each party would have to follow suit.
This week will see the EC endorse the winners of at least 95 per cent of the 350 constituencies. The 150 successful party-list MPs, meanwhile, will be announced on Wednesday, he said.
The announcements should fulfil the deadline imposed by the Constitution. Yet the debate over the calculation of party-list seats would likely go on beyond this week, with several political observers and politicians on one side of the political conflict protesting against the calculation methods used by the EC.
Sunday, May 5, 2019: A couple of mainstream news sites have reported that the Election Commission might endorse Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit as an election winner first if it could not conclude his media share ownership case in time.
The websites, quoting EC sources who apparently attended a crucial EC meeting this weekend, said the Thanathorn reprieve could last until the EC decides that evidence against him is irrefutable. That might come after the EC endorses election winners next week to allow the reopening of Parliament.
In a race against time to announce election results, the EC has only a few days left to scrutinise financial documents involved in the case, some of which quite technical.
It goes without saying that Thanathorn will keep his MP status if the EC drops charges against him after Parliament reopens.
Saturday, May 4, 2019: The new official video clip of Thailand’s national anthem emphaizes harmony more than previous ones, and scenes depicting military might as common in the earlier versions are gone. The clip, lasting slightly over one minute, shows harmonious images of people from all walks of life _ from urban people to farmers to fishermen and religious leaders. Also in the clip is His Majesty the King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
Friday, May 3, 2019: The “war” between activist Srisuwan Janya and the Future Forward Party is continuing unabated, and, in the former’s own words, will “shockingly” peak next week.
The party has threatened lawsuits against Srisuwan, who has been pursuing a campaign seeking to disqualify its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit from the March 24 election. The activist today has vowed to sue back, particularly if the party’s charges against him are rejected.
But Srisuwan said his counter suits should be the least of Future Forward’s concern. Next week will see more evidence to back his suspicion against Thanathorn, and it will be “shocking”.
“I’m confident,” said Srisuwan, leading a group calling itself “Protectors of the Constitution”. “There will be more on May 7 and you shall not blink. People will be shocked.”
Thursday, May 2, 2019: Some say Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was giving big clues about his and Thailand’s immediate political futures, while others say people should not read too much into his May Day statement to Thai labour representatives at the Thai-Japanese Youth Center because there was nothing in it. Judge for yourself. Here’s a direct, unfurnished translation of what he said:
“Over the past five years, this government has done everything for all Thais. We tried to solve every problem in all dimensions and the labour issue has been one of what we always focused on.
“This government has approximately one month left to work and a new government will come to take over in June. In the meantime, we will keep working on pieces of legislation that have not been completed, or on organic laws of legislation pieces that have been completed.
“I can assure you that what we have done over the past five years will be continued by the new government. This is what the people want. Don’t treat this as a routine speech that I want to get over with year after year. It is not. My Cabinet and I have tried our best to bring peace, progress and stability.”
Wednesday, May 1, 2019: The Election Commission has challenged Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit to provide proof to his claims that it had an ulterior motive in pursuing a disqualification case against him and possibly dissolution case against his party.
“It’s his right to presume that the EC is under outside influences or having an ulterior motive, but if he feels strongly about it, he should make a legal case supported by evidence,” said Sawang Boonmee, a senior EC official.
Thanathorn had claimed that the EC was noticeably rushing to investigate his ownership of shares in a media company, an alleged violation of laws governing electoral candidacy registration. His party also claimed that the EC was not straightforward in the investigation process as he, allegedly, could not fully defend himself during the probe.
“We are doing everything according to the laws,” Sawang said. “And it’s our duty to guarantee that every election candidate is qualified.” He insisted that the EC has not decided that Thanathorn was unqualified or not, and has allowed him to provide evidence to dispute charges that he was holding media shares on the day he registered as an election candidate.
Tuesday, April 30, 2019: Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul has insisted he is not waiting for a “political windfall” that would make him prime minister in case of a parliamentary deadlock. In an interview that yielded slight clues on his political stand, Anutin also called for an end to what he suggested was a rhetorical division portraying one side as “pro-democracy” and the other as “pro-dictatorship”.
“The election is a reset, and all the people who were involved in it were equal participants. So far, I haven’t seen anything that is against our Constitution,” he said. “So don’t ask me (whether I will side with a pro-democracy camp or with people wanting to retain their power). We should stop calling people this and that. My stand is that our party will work with the ones supporting our policies.”
On whether he has been offered the “biggest incentive”, albeit a chance to be the next prime minister, Anutin said: “Nobody has given me that offer.” On whether he would accept that kind of offer, he said: “No. I think everyone should get what he or she deserves only. You have to earn it. If you asked whether I want to be prime minister, my answer would be yes. But that’s another matter entirely.”
On whether he thinks the Constitution should be amended, Anutin said he thought further “liberalization of ganja” was a more pressing matter. He suggested there were no urgent problems regarding the Constitution.
Monday, April 29, 2019: Telecom service provider Dtac said it could give Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit his phone records on January 8 only if he officially asked for them.
Thanathorn had defiantly said that he was willing to have his phone-use records scrutinized by people who didn’t believe that he returned by road to Bangkok from Buri Ram on that day to sign a contract transferring his V-Luck Media shares to his mother.
But Dtac responded to that by saying that its “Customer Privacy and Data Protection” protocols demanded that Thanathorn had to make a specific request himself.
Dtac information, still subjected to Thanathorn’s request, could determine locations of his outgoing calls, if they were made.
Dtac customer relations officials said all users can make requests for phone-use records by calling 1678 and going through process identity checks.
Sunday, April 28, 2019: Korn Chatikavanij, one of the candidates vying for the Democrat leadership, said the party would “listen to the people” before making its decision on whether to join a Palang Pracharat-led government.
He posted the Facebook statement after a news report said his party was poised to join Palang Pracharat, which is competing with the Pheu Thai alliance in a race to form a government coalition.
Korn confirmed what the news report said regarding an “audience poll” he conducted during Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Chamber of Commerce meeting last week. He asked the audience to raise their hands if they wanted his party to support Palang Pracharat, and the whole room gave him its approval. He then asked the audience again if anyone wanted his party to play an “independent opposition” role.
“There was no hand,” Korn wrote in his Facebook. “And that’s all that happened.”
In effect, he neither denied nor confirmed that the Democrat Party would definitely support Palang Pracharat.
“Let me say it again, on the question that the party has been facing. We will listen to what the people want,” he wrote.
Whether or not he would support Prayut Chan-o-cha, Korn is pretty much sounding like him.
Saturday, April 27, 2019: Embattled Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongkit has defiantly agreed to allow his mobile phone records to be scrutinized to settle once and for all the contentious question of where he was on January 8 this year. He told veteran journalist Suthichai Yoon in a Facebook Live interview that there were other ways to check how he got back to Bangkok from Buri Ram on that day to sign a widely-publicized share transfer document, like interviews with chauffeurs and policemen escorting him, but he was willing to have his phone records scrutinized.
Accusers had questioned why Thanathorn did not fly back to sign the document, whereas his party’s secretary-general used an airline service to get back to Bangkok on the same day, and how fast Thanathorn’s convoy had to travel to arrive in Bangkok in time for the signing.
Thanathorn told Suthichai there were so many nitpicking questions regarding events that took place on January 8, so he was “extremely willing to” have Dtac publicize his phone records on that day to answer all scepticism.
“I want this to be over so we can move on,” he said. Thanathorn also chaired a party meeting this weekend to thank all for making the newly-founded Future Forward Party a major political force to be reckoned with.
Friday, April 26, 2019: Throughout the Thai political crisis, we have rarely heard from the top judges, let alone the Supreme Court president, except for their technicality-laden rulings. It’s, therefore, worth putting on the record what the chief of Thailand’s highest court has to say on the role of the Thai judiciary.
Here’s what Cheep Chulamon has to say on criticism the Thai judiciary tends to always receive (a speech given at a ganja seminar at the Thai CC Tower):
“In one’s life, among people he or she has to see are doctors and judges. When people go to courts and win, they are happy. When they lose, the first thing they say is they don’t get justice. Even the same people say one thing when they win and another when they lose. Society is always made to question every court decision.
“Judges have nothing to gain or to lose. We are a reactive party. By that, we start to work only when a case is brought to our attention. And yet we are always criticized, and that is despite the fact that we can never make both rivals in a case be the winners.
“We can’t go out and defend every decision. We have to tolerate criticism, because nothing we say can convince the losing side to agree with us.
“Maturity is measured through the ability to tolerate, to understand other people’s duties.
“Nowadays, Thais are bitterly opposed to one another. They don’t accept what is written in the Constitution or the laws regarding each individual’s duty. Even judgements of organisations empowered by the Constitution are not accepted by Thais who don’t like the judgements. My question is, when personal preferences become rules, how is society supposed to live?”
Thursday, April 25, 2019: A party electing a new leader can be seen as being in a “new dawn”. For the Democrats, who are scheduled to choose Abhisit Vejjajiva’s replacement on May 15, it can be the beginning of an extremely rocky period.
According to sources, the Democrats have been bitterly divided into three factions. The first does not want to join the next government. The second does not mind being in the government but the prime minister must not be Prayut Chan-o-cha. The third is “Prayut no matter what.”
Thailand’s oldest party will elect a new executive board including a new leader on May 15, after which, in the words of political maverick turned commentator Chuwit Kamolvisit, “cobras will slither out of the party in great numbers.”
“Cobras” is what Democrat rebels were called many years ago. Their defection rattled Thailand’s oldest party, but the current crisis is said to be more severe than that one.
Chuwit has always been criticised for his “anti-Democrat” comments, but he seems to have a strong point here. Abhisit, the former leader, does not support the military government, and he has been vehemently backed by his mentor, Chuan Leekpai, who is also a former leader and still commands much respect among many Democrats. However, a big group of party poll winners are believed to ally themselves with Thavorn Sennium, who is staunchly backing Prayut and has threatened a massive rebellion. Young-blood democrats seem to be torn in the middle but they tend to lean toward the Abhisit camp.
Wednesday, April 24, 2019: The Democrat Party will forgo a “Primary Vote” in its search for a new leader, who is expected to be elected by 307 key members on May 15, senior party officials said. Before the March 24 election, a primary vote by nationwide members confirmed Abhisit Vejjajiva remained the most popular figure and he was reaffirmed as the party leader in a follow-up poll among the top party echelon. Abhisit, however, quit the party helm following the humiliating general election loss.
The Democrats will not organize another Primary Vote this time due to several constraints, and instead will have 307 top members elect new party executives including Abhisit’s replacement directly on May 15, just a few days after the general election results are officially announced.
The 307 Democrat voters include new MPs, former party executives, some former MPs and some leaders of party branches. The new MPs constitute the biggest voice among the voters.
Each candidate for the leadership will be given 15 minutes to present his or her visions for the party’s future. Acting party leader Jurin Laksanavisit said it would be up to the new leader and new executives to decide, along with the party’s new MPs, the important issue of whether or not to join the post-election government.
Tuesday, April 23, 2019: Today is not a good day for one side of the political divide. After a three-year jail term was given to Thaksin Shinawatra in connection with the Exim Bank loan scandal, Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has seen charges that could disqualify his MP status accepted by the Election Commission.
The EC gave Thanathorn or his legal representatives a week to respond to the charges that he still owned media shares on the day he registered his election candidacy. The EC made the announcement after deciding that there were grounds in the charges against him. The commission had set up an investigating committee to look into the allegations.
Thanathorn’s defence has highlighted a share transfer document, which purportedly moved the shares he had owned in the V-Luck Media company to his mother’s account. The document was apparently signed on January 8, but accusers have questioned the proclaimed timing, saying Thanathorn was in Buri Ram on that day, probably until late afternoon.
The transfer document is expected to feature in EC’s final deliberation as well as in the media. However, presenting the transfer document to the EC and wielding it before reporters carry different legal implications.
After seven days, the EC will decide on Thanathorn’s MP status. The decision will have significant impact on the immediate future of Thai politics either way.
Monday, April 22, 2019: The Election Commission is expected to give some clues on Tuesday, April 23, regarding the case of Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and media shares he used to own. Dismissing or accepting the complaint against him will have significant impact on political developments either way.
Thanathorn has insisted that he has had nothing to do with V-Luck Media Company since January 8 this year, when he signed a contract transferring all his shares in the firm to his mother. His accusers are questioning whether the contract had legal effects on the day, because if it did not, Thanathorn’s registration as an election candidate in February could be nullified.
Future Forward secretary-general Piyabutr Sangkanokkul said today that the EC had not given Thanathorn a proper chance to explain the situation. Piyabutr also implied that the Thanathorn defence would also focus on the “will of the Constitution” and the “real activities” of V-Luck Media, not just the firm’s proclaimed purpose as stated in its official registration.
Sunday, April 21, 2019: The ganja festival in Buri Ram this weekend has featured many things, including people openly smoking marijuana stuffed in cigarettes and booths where tea mixed with marijuana was served. One of the most significant, perhaps, is the enthusiasm expressed by Bhumjaithai Party founder Newin Chindchob on how Thailand could cash in the controversial plant under the next government.
“The future for ganja is bright,” he said during the festival which was attended by tens of thousands of people and received international press coverage. His party, now led by Anutin Charnvirakul, promised during the election campaign to upscale the legalisation of marijuana after many restrictions were already lifted for the sake of scientific and medical researches.
Newin has been at the forefront of a campaign to shield a foundation facing legal trouble for its medical “experiment” with ganja. His strong enthusiasm, analysts say, could be a signal to the two rival camps fighting to form a coalition government. The perceived signal is that the camp that supports legalisation of ganja more could get Bhumjaithai’s support.
The party, though, had shown a firm stand on Thai political culture, making analysts believe that it had already made up its mind on who to support in Parliament
Saturday, April 20, 2019: The Palang Pracharat Party has denied that up to Bt100 million was being offered to any MP if he or she agreed to switch camp in the race to form a government. But the party has also admitted that under the present circumstances, one or two votes can really make a huge difference.
Puttipong Punnakan, the party’s chief Bangkok strategist, suggested the rumoured bribe was nonsensical because the official results of the March 24 general election were not even known yet.
“I think everything is in a suspense now because nobody knows for sure how many seats each camp will get eventually,” said Puttipong. Whether he was suggesting that a bidding war, legal or against the law, would take place after May 9 was up to anyone’s interpretation.
He did admit that a difference of one or two seats can make or break attempts to form a government.
“All I can say is that it’s very tight currently,” he said.
Puttipong also played down speculation regarding the New Economics Party, but pointed out that although its leader Mingkwan Sangsuwan has publicly refused to join a Palang Pracharat-led coalition, “nothing is definite” until the official poll results are announced.
Friday, April 19, 2019: Opponents of incumbent Prime Minister Prayut Chan-0-cha’s possible return to power will need to consider this: Even if a campaign for a neutral, non-divisive “outsider” to serve as the post-election prime minister succeeds, the Senate will still have a big role to play in determining who will come in or whether such a scenario is possible at all.
The Senate is provisionally powerful, and its agreement is crucial if Parliament is to “invite” an outsider to serve as a prime minister to break a deadlock.
“I’m not sure about all the processes that the idea of a unity government or national government have to go through,” said Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam. “(I only know that) the Constitution allows for the Senate to (join the House of Representatives and) vote to open the way for the invitation of an outsider if Parliament fails to break a deadlock time and again.”
On whether there is already a deadlock, he told reporters: “I have no comment. You’d better ask the people who say there is.”
On legal cases looming over Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and secretary-general Piyabutr Sangkanokkul, Wissanu said their MP status will remain unaffected as long as the cases are not finalised by the courts.
Thursday, April 18, 2019: The Democrat Party may conduct another “primary” in its search for a new party leader following the resignation of Abhisit Vejjajiva. Acting deputy leader Alongkorn Ponlaboot said the possibility of another primary could be discussed on April 24 during a meeting of party executives.
Prior to the March 24 election, the party carried out a poll involving registered party members to sound them out regarding the question of who should lead the party. Incumbent Abhisit won that “primary”, but later he declared that he would quit the helm if the party won fewer than 100 seats in the general election.
Now that Abhisit has resigned following the party’s humiliating loss in the general election, the Democrats may need another primary in search of his replacement. In conducting the previous “primary”, the party insisted that its results were not legally binding, but would only be used as a guideline for the selection of its leader. A more limited leadership election, involving a much smaller number of executives and top members, followed that previous primary, but no controversy materialized because Abhisit was still favoured in the decisive round.
Alongkorn said details and possible rule changes for the new primary will be discussed on April 24. He ruled himself out, saying he had insufficient support as shown in the previous primary.
The new leader and the new executive board will decide on who to support regarding the formation of the coalition government. This means the new Democrat primary will be swift, as the new leadership must be installed in time to make key post-election decisions.
Wednesday, April 17, 2019: And the comment is “No comment.” Incumbent Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has finally said something about growing calls for the post-election administration to be a “national government” in order to reduce political tension, which has been threatening to boil over, and to give the new rulers a greater degree of stability.
“I have no comment,” said Prayut, amid rumours that the party that supports him, Palang Pracharat, has managed to muster a wafer-thin House of Representatives majority for the formation of a post-election coalition government.
The “national government” idea has been put forward by many who believe that neither a Palang Pracharat-led nor Pheu Thai-led government would be stable. If the new government has about 10 votes, give or take, above the simple majority, political bribery, or blatant betrayal, or even rebellious voting based on pure conscience, can plague parliamentary politics, national-government advocates say.
The idea puts Palang Pracharat and Pheu Thai in the same government, which many believe will be more stable than both parties going separate ways in Parliament.
Another idea has also emerged that Thailand’s Constitution, Article 270 in particular, seems to allow the Senate to join the House of Representatives on passing crucial laws. Over the next few days, political debate may focus on that senatorial power in order to define its scope. (There have been worries that a “minority government” will have problems passing key laws without the Senate’s strong involvement.)
On whether Thailand’s future politics will be rocky, Prayut said: “It’s all up to everyone’s conscience. It depends on what (people who matter) want to see happening politically.”
Tuesday, April 16, 2019: In his Facebook post, Democrat Warong Dechgitvigrom called on the old and young generations to reconcile over Thailand’s political system and culture, saying a generational conflict could be brewing and should be nipped in the bud.
“I still think my generation still have the potentials and energy to drive our organizations and specifically our country forward,” he wrote. “(But) we will definitely get very old one day and the children will become us. It is therefore imperative that all of us, old and young, look forward constructively and not let our beliefs be guided by unconstructive thoughts. People of my generation should point at the right way in a manner that does not insult (the new generation’s) thinking.”
Monday, April 15, 2019: A vast majority of Thais want political peace, and they want politicians to stop dragging the country through their problems, according to Super Poll. The survey of 3,661 people nationwide showed that Thais people want politicians to stop pitting Thais against one another and use proper political mechanism to solve any problem stemming from the March 24 election.
The same poll, conducted between March 26 and April 15, however, said a big majority of Thais think the Election Commission “flunked the test”, an issue which is at the core of the political fight at the moment.
Despite their opinions on the EC, 96.9 % of the people surveyed said they want peace. A total of 75.9 % said they want politicians to solve their problems through the legitimate political mechanism instead of politicizing them and dragging Thais into destructive activism.
“Thais want politicians to stop spreading rumours and trying to achieve their goals through unethical means,” said Noppadol Kannika, Super Poll director. “The survey shows that Thais want politicians to stop what they are doing now.”
Sunday, April 14, 2019: Democrats are fighting one another fiercely on their LINE group, according to a report. All the party’s senior people are the group’s members, but, since the humiliating election defeat, there has been no holds barred in terms of the language, said the report.
The party’s divide _ between those wanting to back Prayut Chan-o-cha as the next prime minister and those balking at that _ has been bitterly apparent through the messages, some of which showcasing impolite languages, the report said.
It is said that about 30 Democrat MPs (unofficial) want to join a Prayut-led government. The rest of election winners do not want to, but they form a smaller group.
The same report said the Palang Pracharat Party had given up on the idea of having the whole Democrat Party support Prayut, and was counting on the 30 Democrats who may vote for him in Parliament no matter what resolution the oldest political party makes.
Saturday, April 13, 2019: According to one unverified report being played up on a major news website, New Economics Party leader Mingkwan Sangsuwan has done an about-face and agreed to join a Palang Pracharat-led coalition seeking to form a government, and the alliance could be further boosted by a big faction of the Democrat Party which has yet to make a clear public stand on its future.
Mingkwan’s five-MP party and the Democrat faction led by Tavorn Sennium would give the Palang Pracharat camp the House of Representatives majority and thus “legitimacy” to form a government, the report said, quoting “inside information” from Palang Pracharat. According to the claim, the Tavorn faction commands about 35 MPs.
Mingkwan has been closely-linked publicly with the Pheu Thai alliance, but he failed to show up at a crucial press conference after the May 24 election where the other alliance members announced the camp had won a House of Representatives majority. Nothing has been heard from him directly regarding the New Economics Party’s stand, so he has been considered a crucial kingmaker in the aftermath of the election.
Although the Palang Pracharat camp will have the help of the 250-strong Senate when it comes to electing the next prime minister, controlling the House of Representatives’ majority is crucial to both rival camps, particularly in terms of perceived legitimacy.
Friday, April 12, 2019: A Bangkok candidate of the Future Forward Party has been strongly criticised on the social media for linking the Central World fire to five years of military-backed Prayut Chan-o-cha’s rule. The young politician, tipped as one of the economic strategists of the newly-founded but very popular party, tweeted that he did not blame the military-installed Bangkok governor for the fire, but insisted that Prayut, who put the governor there, was to blame.
“The governor did not come from an election so I’m not blaming him,” tweeted Chris Potranandana. “But I demand a show of responsibility from Gen Prayut who prevented a gubernatorial election for five years and shoved this governor to the Bangkok people.”
The tweet seemed to backfire badly, with people taunting Chris for playing “old-fashioned” politics, something his party publicly renounces.
“(We call that) Brain?” one person replied to his tweet.
Thursday, April 11, 2019: The Election Commission may conclude its investigation into Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s past holding of media shares before the official announcement of complete poll results on May 9, it has been reported. Some outsiders with expertise on shareholding affairs have been invited to look into evidence, according to the Isranews website which has been raising questions on past holding by Thanathorn of V-Luck Media Company shares.
The EC investigation focuses on whether Thanathorn did transfer his shares to his mother before he applied as an election candidate. If he was ruled to have still held the shares on the day he registered for the March 24 election, he could be disqualified as an election candidate and subsequently as an MP.
Isranews said the EC hoped to complete the investigation, which involved share transfer documents and the company’s submitted papers on its shareholding structure, before May 9. However, the news outlet added that if more evidence came in, the deadline for completion could be extended.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019: Palang Pracharat secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong has reportedly told top party members to be prepared for “all kinds of possibility”, admitting that the new government might not last long. “It will definitely be a coalition government, in which case anything can happen,” a source quoted him as saying during a high-level meeting to discuss an agenda for a party caucus this week.
Of the party’s 97 constituency MPs, 60 have been elected for the first time, an achievement that the party should be proud of as it underlined public trust in the newly-founded political camp, he insisted.
“Whatever happens in the future, we will be ready,” he reportedly said, signalling Palang Pracharat’s readiness if the next election comes sooner than everyone thought.
Tuesday, April 9, 2019: Thai politics’ ability to cause diplomatic epidemic has been undisputed. The latest outbreak involved national security charges against Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroonruangkit, whose questioning by the Thai authorities was well observed by international “representatives” who reportedly included some diplomats.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai and former justice minister Peerapan Saliratvipak, to different degrees, have voiced concern about the activities of the foreigners. Prayut basically said he was looking into reports about them and was waiting for follow-up whereas Don and Peerapan were a lot more critical, saying the line has been crossed and things like this could not have happened if the involved countries questioned their own national security suspects.
Don and Peerapan insisted what happened was tantamount to interfering with Thailand’s legal affairs.
“It is unprecedented that they (foreign diplomats) are present in the interrogation room. If they want to know about the atmosphere in the interrogation room, they should wait outside the police station. No country will allow this, never,” said Minister Don.
Monday, April 8, 2019: Abhisit Vejjajiva’s first work after quitting the Democrat Party’s helm will be as a volunteer for the coronation ceremony. Today, he registered for the voluntary work at the Phra Nakhon District headquarters and was given the number 60528.
The two-day registration period started today. Work is divided into seven categories _ security and traffic; medical; transport; logistics; exhibition and ceremonial; public work; and activities to honour the new king.
People interested in volunteering for the royal occasion can contact district headquarters near them for registration or information.
Sunday, April 7, 2019: The Bhumjaithai Party seems to have spelled out its post-election plan by renouncing unorthodox political ideologies and saying it would only work in a government that fully cherishes the political system of constitutional monarchy. This has perhaps left the Democrats as the most crucial kingmaker, as their decision on whether to join the Palang Pracharat alliance, or the Pheu Thai camp, or to ignore both and be in the opposition bloc, will impact the immediate and possibly long-term course of Thai politics.
Thailand’s oldest political has not made a decision yet, and conflicting signs have come out of it. After deputy Democrat leader Thavorn Senniam claimed a group of Democrat party members, including several former MPs and newly-elected candidates, want the party to join a pro-Prayut Palang Pracharat coalition government, highly-respected party top adviser and former leader Chuan Leekpai has warned against jumping the gun before a final, official decision was made by the party’s executives in a due process.
There had been reports that the Democrat Party had received a sweet offer from the Pheu Thai camp, which is desperate for House of Representatives votes to put pressure on the pro-Prayut Senate. That prompted Korn Chatikavanij, a candidate to replace Abhisit Vejjajiva as Democrat leader, to flatly rule out any chance of working with Pheu Thai.
Amid signs of disagreement within the Democrat Party, Thavorn has written on his Facebook over the weekend reiterating several members’ desire to join a Palang Pracharat government and saying that such a political move would not run against the party’s fundamental agenda. If the Democrats join hands with Palang Pracharat, he wrote, they can push for several key policies. “We need to be able to tell people in the next election what policies of ours come to fruition,” he wrote.
Saturday, April 6, 2019: The guests at the Democrat Party’s birthday party looked like a who’s who of a possible government coalition, although the most important among them insisted that the occasion was only for congratulatory words, not political discussions.
“We will do nothing until May 9, when the official poll results are known,” said Sontirat Sontijirawong, secretary general of the Palang Pracharat Party. He added that although his group arrived at the Democrat Party headquarters with flowers, “this is not a wedding parade.”
However, he did suggest that the Democrats can expect an invitation to join a government led by his party. “We have been clear to everyone that any invitation card has to wait until May 9.”
Representatives from the Bhumjaithai, Chartthaipattana and Chartpattana parties also attended the 73rd anniversary party of the Democrats. They were greeted by all key men of the Democrat Party. Remarkably, most important people from “the other camp” were nowhere to be seen.
Friday, April 5, 2019: If Korn Chatikavanij succeeds Abhisit Vejjajiva as leader of the Democrat Party, it will be the first time that two close friends head the same political camp back to back. The two men’s chummy relationship is no secret, but they were so close that having to act formal toward each other in public made them uncomfortable.
Imagine two male friends who used to sprinkle conversations with curses when talking to each other. Korn and Abhisit were at that level while at Oxford. At the Democrat Party, they have had to be polite toward each other, which caused a few awkward moments.
“Once when I wai him at a meeting, he asked ‘What the hell are you doing?’/” Korn recalled during an interview. He had led Abhisit take the leading role in the party, but after the latter left the helm following the March 24 election embarrassment, the first thing Korn did in the limelight was practically telling the public not to take Abhisit’s anti-Prayut stand as a sign that the Democrats would join hands with arch-rivals Pheu Thai.
Following news that the Democrat Party had been contacted by Pheu Thai and received a mouth-watering political offer, Korn immediately went public to deny that his party would be in a Pheu Thai coalition. He stopped short of saying where his party would end up, though.
Thursday, April 4, 2019: Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s media share controversy has continued to provide puzzles. While “the other” legal action against him has to do with freedom of speech, something highly political and contentious, the share problem is threatening to turn against him both politically and legally.
The biggest question that has emerged has to do with Thanathorn’s claim that he transferred all his shares in V-Luck Media Company to his mother on January 8. He used a transfer document signed by all parties involved including witnesses to back that up.
Now, Isranews has produced photographic evidence that Thanathorn was also in Buriram on that day. Its reporters asked him about it and his answer was ambiguous. He said it was “misunderstanding” on the part of Isranews but did not elaborate. If he had somehow signed the transfer document in advance, he did not say it.
A tax stamp seen on the transfer document could also become a big issue, with some observers insisting that the document required a lot more tax stamps because of the high value of the transfer.
Wednesday, April 3, 2019: News reports have claimed the “big boss” of the Pheu Thai camp now wants Chaikasem Nitisiri as its key prime ministerial candidate, following a fallout with Sudarat Keyuraphan. Chaikasem’s name in Pheu Thai’s three-person prime ministerial nomination list had been the least mentioned, easily overshadowed by Sudarat’s and Chadchart Sittipunt’s, but if the reports are true, it will now constantly be on the front page as the Pheu Thai alliance seeks to keep pressure on the Palang Pracharat Party.
The news reports said that due to Sudarat’s perceived weaknesses when it comes to showdowns with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is Palang Pracharat’s sole prime ministerial nominee, people who have real control over the Pheu Thai Party are switching to Chaikasem, who has considerable political pedigree as former attorney-general and justice minister and used to be occasionally defiant against the military.
The news reports named the “big boss” and spelled out “developments” leading to the rise of Chaikasem. Those alleged developments, however, are questionable as they can put Pheu Thai in constitutional jeopardy.
There have not yet been official words from Pheu Thai regarding the futures of Sudarat and Chaikasem, but the former has looked quite tense in public lately, even on the day she led the Pheu Thai alliance’s press conference announcing readiness to form a coalition government.
Tuesday, April 2, 2019: Gen Apirat Kongsompong has been talking politics again. Or it can be said that what he said is getting much political attention again, after a general election that many see as just confirming the national divide.
To be fair, the Army chief was calling for public harmony and understanding of the unique Thai political culture. But he also said it in what critics may dub a confrontational way. In one public remark, he lashed out at “pretentious” or “over-sensitive” academics who he said had gone to study abroad and absorbed foreign political systems without giving consideration to Thailand’s uniqueness. These academics, he charged, were creating divisiveness that could spoil the restart of democratic Parliament.
In another remark, made before foreign observers and journalists, he insisted that the delayed announcement of election results could be attributed to one reason only, and that was the coronation ceremony. He said the laws required a lot of activities to happen after complete announcement of election results and those activities could get in the way of royal events.
In his meeting with foreign journalists, Apirat naturally was asked what he thought about coups. He basically said that if Thais started killing one another and the government was helpless about it, then the military would have to step in to stop the bloodshed. If the government is in control of the situation, soldiers would stay on the side, he added.
In an apparent swipe at Thaksin Shinawatra, Apirat said casualties of a civil war were always people who were used as pawns, whereas the real masterminds would be nowhere to be seen. “When people fight on the streets, so-called democracy leaders will take their families out of the country and watch it from afar. They will only return when they know the country is at peace and they can get everything. Only the people who stay the whole time stand to lose everything,” he said.
Monday, April 1, 2019: Now, a fair number of analysts have begun to believe that a seizable amount of votes and MPs that the Future Forward Party received in the March 24 general election was a windfall from the dissolution of the Thai Raksa Chart Party.
Future Forward received a combined 6.2 million votes nationwide, coming third in terms of popular votes after the Palang Pracharat and Pheu Thai parties. Much of the phenomenon has to do with the popularity of Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit but a growing number of analysts believe the party dissolution must have played a significant role.
The analysts believe there are two big consequences of the dissolution. First, the pro-Shinawatra camp could have topped the popular vote table, as everyone knows the linkage between Pheu Thai and Thai Raksa Chart, instead of seeing Palang Pracharat claim the glory at the moment.
Second, many Future Forward candidates won at constituencies where Thai Raksa Chart candidates had been expected to win before the election. This also increased combined national votes for Future Forward, enabling it to gain handsomely from the new proportional system.
Nobody had expected Future Forward to do this well, but while Palang Pracharat must be unpleasantly surprised, its opponents could have been kicking themselves. After all, Thai Raksa Chart was doomed after a totally avoidable mistake. If it had named Chaturon Chaisaeng as its prime ministerial candidate, the Pheu Thai-Thai Raksa Chart camp would have been sitting pretty at the moment.
Sunday, March 31, 2019: Protesters gathering in the Ratchaprasong area today scolded the Election Commission and insisted that Pheu Thai won the March 24 poll because “electoral votes” (the number of MPs), not popular votes, decided the winner.
The protesters, who were not numerous but rather noisy, insisted that the post-election prime minister must be Pheu Thai candidates _ Sudarat Keyuraphan or Chadchart Sittipunt _ only. Lines of police circled the demonstrators, who looked angry but did not appear in a big number. There were some pushes and shoves but nothing untoward happened.
The protesters asked passers-by to sign their name to support an impeachment campaign against the EC.
Pheu Thai won the biggest number of seats, but the Palang Pracharat Party won the biggest number of votes when ballots cast nationwide are combined.
Saturday, March 30, 2019: Thaksin Shinawatra has told his supporters not to lose hope, citing God, the United Arab Emirates and Estonia.
His Facebook fan page message calls on everyone to carry on, because “As long as we can still breath, we shall not abandon hope.” The same message added that “The last gift that God can give you is hope.”
He avoided mentioning the March 24 general election in which his virtually main political party, Pheu Thai, failed to top the table of popular votes for the first time. Pheu Thai, however, has won the biggest number of parliamentary seats, although it is struggling hard to form a coalition government.
The Facebook message said although the UAE had only deserts and there was no river, the country never gave up and as a result managed to have plenty of water. As for Estonia, he said the country was very poor coming out of the Russian control but is now being dubbed Europe’s Silicon Valley because the country’s visionaries have been focusing on what online revolutions can give the people.
“Those are the people who never give up. As long as we can still breath, we shall not abandon hope. We must have hope for ourselves, for our families, for our organisations and for our countries,” he said.
Friday, March 29, 2019: Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s first legal fight as a politician will involve court precedents that do not seem to favour his defence.
Having reinforced his status as Thailand’s new political star in the March 24 national poll, Thanathorn is fighting allegations that he registered his election candidacy while still holding shares in a media company. The Constitution prohibits media ownership by election candidates, with violators facing parliamentary disqualification and/or ban.
Thanathorn has displayed a document showing that he transferred all his shares in V-luck Media Company to his mother, but questions are arising as to whether the document had legal effects on the day he registered his election candidacy.
Critics have cited a Supreme Court ruling number 5873/2546, in which the court rejected a complaint that someone should not have been taxed for share dividends because the shares in question had changed hands earlier. The court said the particular share transfers must have been acknowledged by the authorities before the taxation.
When transfer is concerned, there are apparently two types of shares. The first one, common to man on the street, is entitled to constant changes of possession without a fuss. The second one requires authorization or official acknowledgement. As a main shareholder of V-Luck Company, it is believed that what Thanathorn was holding was the second type of shares.
To add to his worries, the Constitutional Court in 2010 disqualified six MPs found to have partially owned media companies or media stocks.
Thursday, March 28, 2019: Another contentious document has emerged in Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s media shareholding controversy, this time implying that he might have attended the company’s meeting as a shareholder just a few days before the election.
Thanathorn had insisted that he was not holding any media stocks on the day he applied for election candidacy. He displayed a document that showed he and his wife had transferred all their shares to his mother way before the application day. His document is a transfer contract between him and his mother, with witnesses’ signatures and a tax stamp.
He displayed the transfer contract after the Israwnews media outlet reported that legal evidence showed he was still holding V-Luck Media Company shares worth about Bt9 million on the day he applied for election candidacy. Such holding would be in violation of the Constitution and could lead to his candidacy being nullified.
Thanathorn’s displayed share transfer contract was made before the candidacy registration day. It was up against Isaranews’ document showing that the company sent information about changes in shareholding to the authorities just a couple of days before the election.
It seems that the day the share transfer as stated in the Thanathorn-displayed contract took effect is crucial in this controversy.
Now, Isaranews has shown another document, which showed that 10 V-Luck Media shareholders attended a company meeting on March 19. The document to commerce authorities did not say specifically who were at the meeting, but Isaranews said the stated number, 10, was intriguing.
“Explanation is needed as to why the number of shareholders attending the meeting was 10 while it should have been 8 because Thanathorn and his wife ‘transferred’ their shares to his mother on January 8,” Isaranews said.
Thanathorn has yet to respond to this.
His legal fate has been made a lot more significant in the current political climate. The March 24 election has been a tight race and rival camps are competing to gather a House of Representatives majority. One added seat here or a missing seat there can change the complexion of the game drastically, and Thanathorn’s parliamentary status can hinge on the outcome of this shareholding controversy.
Wednesday, March 27, 2019: Due to the fact that the Pheu Thai Party is not getting MPs from the proportional system, the post-election Parliament will miss a big number of veterans who are on its party list. Chalerm Yoobamrung, Snoh Thienthong, Bokhin Palakula and Plodprasop Surasawadee are among them.
Unless something big happens in the counting of the remaining 5 per cent of votes cast on Sunday, Sudarat Keyuraphan and Bhumtham Wecchayachai, who are high on the party list, will miss it too. Veteran Pongthep Thepkanchana will almost definitely miss it like Chalerm, Snoh and Plodprasop.
Currently, Pheu Thai leader Viroj Pao-in who tops the party list is also sweating heavily.
Other big names dropping like flies include Adisorn Piengkiet, Prayut Siripanich, Noppadol Pattama and Kittirat na Ranong.
The party list candidates of Pheu Thai have fallen victims to the new proportion system because Pheu Thai has won “too many” constituency contests whereas losers of other parties performed well, being beaten only narrowly.
Under the new seat-rationing system (involving 350 constituency seats and 150 party list or proportional seats), all votes cast in all constituencies will be combined to determine how many proportional seats each party get. For example, if Party A is supposed to get 100 seats but it has already won 95 constituency seats, it will get an additional 5 seats from the proportional system. If a party’s sweep already matches the determined number or exceeds it, that party won’t get anything from the proportional basket.
The new system was proclaimed to promote the “Every vote counts” concept, because it benefits parties that lose narrowly at constituencies. Pheu Thai had claimed the new system was designed to help losers in its routine wins in the northern and northeastern regions.