13 July 2024

September 30, 2023: The man once tipped to challenge Joe Biden in the primary of America’s Democratic Party has made a curious comment on 9/11, signaling the possibility that what was once strictly within the realm of conspiracy theories may be trying to make its way into the mainstream US politics.

Speaking during “In the Room” programme hosted by Peter Bergen, 69-year-old Robert F. Kennedy Jr., was asked what he thought about 9/11.

Although he insisted that he hadn’t researched the issue deeply, Kennedy went straight to the problems surrounding World Trade Center 7, which came down into its own footprints in the afternoon of September 11, 2001, without having been hit by an airplane like the twin towers, which were in the same complex.

“In the Room” host Bergen — who is also a national security analyst for CNN — apparently attempted to challenge Kennedy’s opinion immediately, yet the candidate was adamant about what he thought was “strange” _ the fact that Building 7 came down in a suspicious manner without being hit by an airplane.

The conversation, common at this time of the year, began with Bergen asking Kennedy if he “buys” the official explanation of 9/11. An affirmative “Yes” would do, but Kenny chose to be elusive and thus turned it into a rather heated exchange.

“I don’t know what happened on 9/11,” Kennedy replied. “I mean, I understand what the official explanation is. I understand that there is dissent. I have not looked into it. I haven’t examined it. I’m not a good person to talk to about it.”

Then Bergen pressed ahead, asking directly if “there is doubt in your mind that al-Qaeda was responsible?” Kennedy stood his ground, saying he was not an expert but “strange things” seemed to happen on that day and he mentioned Building 7 in particular. He even argued with Bergen when the latter said that Building 7 collapsed because the twin towers came down on top of it.

“There are pictures of it collapsing,” Kennedy said. “There’s nothing collapsing on top of it. I mean, listen, I don’t want to argue any theories about this because all I’ve heard is questions. I have no explanation. I have no knowledge of it. But what you’re repeating now, I know not to be true.”

9/11 can be politicised, according to the “Truthers” movement that questions the al-Qaeda theory. Since trying to tell the American public that that terror attack did not come from the outside is unpopular, politicians doubting the official story can be asked about it and have their opinions played up and jeopardise their career in the process, the movement said.

Kennedy has been reported to be ending his challenge to Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination and run instead as an independent candidate, in a move that could upset or complicate the 2024 race for the White House.

September 29, 2023: It’s certainly understandable why Move Forward had to do what it did regarding deputy House speaker Padipat Suntiphada, but it’s also important for the party to realise the danger of the slippery slope that comes with it.

House speakership played a role in the chaotic formation of the post-election government, so Move Forward of all the parties has the right to feel paranoid and act on it. Meanwhile, the official position of the opposition leader is significant when it comes to media exposure, both local and abroad.

The “pros” and “necessities” seem to go hand in hand in Move Forward’s case. The “cons” present themselves in the form of bad examples that are all over the place.

Many bad things especially in politics began as a “tactical” move. Thaksin Shinawatra’s shares to his servants were transferred tactically, with tax or other financial reasons being the motives. Many poorly-qualified ministers were given new Cabinet posts as a tactic to guard them against parliamentary censure. Was the change of place illegal? No. Should it be done? Of course not.

Moral wrongdoings also started relatively innocently, like when traffic offenders paid the police “on the spot” to avoid time-consuming punitive procedures at their stations.

“Tactics” are often associated with loopholes. They are used for proper reasons at first, but those using them step closer to “the line” as a result. In the long term, consequences can be disastrous as well. The “servants’ shares” became a major political scandal and later a big part of the Thai divide. The small “on the spot” payment to the traffic police played a big role in Thailand’s bribery culture.

Tactic users will face the same temptation at the edge of the line. Many times they will cross it without even knowing. They can find that the gravitational pull of the slippery slope is enormous.

The challenge, therefore, is not to make the first tactic work, but how to stay away from the tempting second one and so forth.

September 28, 2023: The popular opinion is that Chaithawat Tulathon is just a stopgap at Move Forward and Pita Limjaroenrat remains the real deal, but reality could be in reverse, according to a news analysis.

The Manager said while Pita was ideologically committed, he was selected because he could be sold politically. Chaithawat had been the ideological brain and driving force of Move Forward all along, it pointed out.

The appointment of Chaithawat, therefore, was anything but a temporary measure. The news outlet said the new Move Forward leadership signalled an intention to give the government a real ideological fight and downgrade Pheu Thai’s electoral market values at the same time.

To portray Pheu Thai as no different from the Prayut government is not a small mission that a stopgap leader can accomplish, it is said. The outlet said Chaithawat will have full authority and power to carry out that task, and that will become increasingly obvious with the party’s new leadership structure and performance on the opposition bench.

September 27, 2023: Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn’s threat against his accusers is beyond imagination, underlining how sickening the whole affair is.

Again, if he was speaking the truth, it destroys his dignity as much as the Police Department’s. It begs the question why he had kept it to himself for so long and it mocks the “To protect and to serve the public” pledge every policeman is required to make.

Here is what he has just said word for word: “I’m not aiming for a payback. But I have a lot of information. If I publicise it the whole Police Department will die. I’m not revealing it, though. (Just be aware that) I have plenty of information. I have been straightforward in every case, but money trails involve many people.”

With that, the man many people once believed would become the police chief one day has outdone his accusers trying to link him with online gambling. They face the same suspicion about the timing of “exposure”. Surely, whatever they knew about him must have been their “information” for quite some time.

Surachate has threatened to take the entire department down, in response to his accusers’ attempt to put him away. The public are benefiting from their rivalry, but knowing the scale of how their trust has been betrayed is an extremely painful benefit.

September 26, 2023: The biggest problem in politics is that people only start washing dirty laundry in public when friendship or alliance breaks apart, or when vested interest is seriously threatened. Otherwise nobody else would have known.

One Exhibit A is the current trouble of deputy police chief Surachate Hakparn. In fact, it’s every Thai’s problem. The allegation and surrounding circumstances took the question “Who can we trust?” to new heights.

What matters more, therefore, is not whether Surachate did what he was alleged to have done, but why it took his accusers so long to come up with the allegation and whether there would have been an investigation at all had things been different.

Distinguish this from the normal government-opposition relationship. It’s the government’s job to “punish” wrongdoers in the opposition and it’s in the opposition’s nature to dig into every government scandal. Accusations are often swift but they are to be expected all the same.

Unlike when people on “the same side” start smearing one another. That’s when the real shocks will come.

September 25, 2023: Whether they are bad politics or actual crimes, allegations against deputy police chief Surachate Hakparn make sure that the shattered reputation of the Thai police will remain in small, scattering pieces for a long, long time.

That he was one of the most outspoken critics of “Kamnan Nok” and promised that the Nakhon Pathom case would come to a proper conclusion no matter what it took arouses both curiosity and irony. It’s curious because of the timing, and it’s ironic because the online gambling charges are closing in on him of all the people.

Either way _ whether he’s a political victim or whether he did what the accusers suspected _ it’s extremely bad for the Police Department.

September 24, 2023: Critics of the digital wallet agenda cannot celebrate on hearing that Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is willing to “listen to suggestions”.

In fact, his latest statement on the controversial plan which will require an enormous budget only confirms he will definitely go ahead with it. And possibly ease the limits on sale and purchase, that is.

As digital money to be given by the administration to every household would be worth only when it is used at government-assigned shops within government-assigned boundaries, concern has been raised about insufficient shops in rural areas.

Don’t worry about that, Srettha said. We are ready for advice on how to increase the radiuses (if that is possible), he insisted.

“(The boundaries) is one concern which we will consider. (Restrictions) could make spending concentrate in downtown areas. What we want is poor neighbourhoods getting a chance to have a shot. Details are being looked at, so there should be no worries,” he said.

Asked by reporters whether he was confident the government would find enough and trouble-free money to fund the agenda, he said: “Absolutely. We never have any worry.”

September 23, 2023: One of Piyabutr Saengkanokkul’s best lines in what looks like his farewell message to Move Forward is something along the lines of having hope does not necessarily mean you will be part of the ultimate change.

It does seem like a final goodbye, but if you doubt it you are in good company.

“My time is up and it is other people’s turn now,” he wrote on his Facebook. He vowed to go back to other passions _ writing, watching films and exercise. (He did say he would also learn how to ride a bicycle, but that can be a typo. Surely? A revolutionary man his age? Swimming lessons are also his plan, by the way.)

Since his political ban, he has been acting like “wake-up” coffee for Move Forward, strong and possibly bitter, but eye-opening all the same, he said. He has had to be careful due to legal restrictions, but he also has to be worried about his messages not getting across, Piyabutr complained. That was why, he said, important warnings had to go public instead of being whispered privately sometimes.

He was obviously upset by Move Forward supporters “taking it the wrong way.”

Many people associated with the party often criticised him for washing dirty laundry in public and risking overstepping legal boundaries, an act that could embarrass both himself and the entire Move Forward apparatus, he said. Many times people would say “Here comes the real puppet master,” the main wrote. He added that those not accusing him of pulling the strings would become dismayed at relentless quarrelling and blame him for it.

“I’m an outsider, both in truth and legally,” he said.

He ended the long “farewell” with “It’s time to look ahead. So long.”

September 22, 2023: When someone says “This is the last time I’m talking about you”, he or she is definitely sulking.

That is exactly what Piyabutr Saengkanokkul has told the Move Forward Party, which reincarnated from a political party he helped found. His criticism of Move Forward _ before it came out to strongly defend Pannika Wanich _ for insufficient reaction to her life-long electoral ban has drawn boos and jeers from the party’s die-hard supporters.

“I still firmly believe in Move Forward but I also believe in straightforward criticism,” Piyabutr, a surprise big critic of Pita Limjaroenrat before the latter’s setbacks, said in his Facebook live. “But it’s ok if Move Forward’s supporters are not ready for it. I can guarantee that I have read every word (of those bombarding me). It makes me (decide) that I will no longer talk about Move Forward if the situation does not allow me to express my thoughts freely.

“However, there is one thing that I wrote a long time ago. It’s about Move Forward. It will likely be the last (public) piece of my opinions because there will be no more in the future and because I’m feeling that people are upset whenever I speak out. I would like everyone to check it out, as it can be useful for Thai politics and my brothers and sisters supporting Move Forward.”

Whatever the leading man of the Progressive Movement had written, it’s guaranteed to be a hit.

September 21, 2023: While the biggest political party is handing Pannika Wanich morale support, it is giving Amarat Chokepamitkul the cold shoulder.

It is impossible for Move Forward to treat them similarly. Pannika has been found guilty by the Supreme Court of gross ethical violations stemming from her political belief, whereas Amarat has allegedly made one person feeling insecure just for voicing political opinions.

In a statement, Move Forward said what happened to Pannika underlined flaws in the Thai Constitution, which it insisted had to be amended. She received the backing just after Move Forward’s Deputy House Speaker Padipat Santiphada said he was ready to ditch Amarat as an adviser pending an investigation.

“(Although) Amarat is not an MP, Move Forward has a process to deal with ethical problems (of its members),” Padipat said. “More facts are needed from both the complainer and the accused. If Amarat was found to be in the wrong, we are ready to make changes regarding the advisory position.”

September 20, 2023: Perhaps Move Forward’s Amarat Chokepamitkul of all the people should have handled it better. Often outspoken when it came to defending the “freedom to criticise” and voicing concern about safety of the critics, she has found herself at the wrong end of all that thanks to her latest, apparent action.

Popularly known as Jeab Kaoklai, she seems to have provided all personal information of one ordinary citizen who made strong political comments online, prompting the latter to formally complain with the Move Forward Party, Parliament and the Justice Ministry.

The person’s open letter claimed Amarat, an adviser to a deputy House speaker intimidated her and endangered her family by giving personal information such as her nickname, date of birth, address, mother’s name, office phone number and even the colour of her house’s wall and the colour of her car.

Those pieces of information were seen in Facebook posts that had Amarat’s name on them. Unless Amarat said her account had been hacked, the allegation which was backed by captured screens looks pretty damning.

In one of the captured screens, Amarat (or anyone using her account) even promised to provide more information so the woman would stop harming others with her “toxic” postings.

The two women’s conflict reportedly led to Amarat’s attempted visits to where the other women lived and worked. The latter’s employer has also become aware of the problem and apparently promised to take action.

In her lengthy open letter detailing what she faced, the woman said: “I do believe all Thai people must be protected from political witch-hunts, either by politicians or fellow citizens.” The letter also sought to remind everyone of what Move Forward proclaims it stands for.

In the previous Parliament, Amarat was one of most controversial MPs, sparring with then prime minister Prayut Chan-ocha, making taboo statements, pushing the boundary of Article 112 enforcement and giving all kinds of support to anti-establishment protesters.

September 19, 2023: If the whole “spy balloon” thing is a movie project, filmmakers are still undecided whether to star Tom Cruise and make it serious, or turn it into a comedy starring Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean).

The most bizarre diplomatic incident of the Biden government can still go either way. Months after America scrambled top-of-the-line jet fighters to shoot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon that was floating across the United States, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tells “CBS News Sunday Morning” the balloon wasn’t spying. “The intelligence community, their assessment – and it’s a high-confidence assessment – [is] that there was no intelligence collection by that balloon,” he said.

One leading theory befitting a Mr Bean involvement is that the balloon was blown off-track in an innocent yet fateful way.

But comedy advocates should hold their horses for now. China’s “spy balloons” are for real, according to the likes of CNN and The New York Times. The news outlets’ headlines were along the lines of Beijing pausing its spy balloon undertaking thanks to the US moves.

In which case Tom Cruise can still hop on a jet fighter, possibly sneak into other sovereign territories and hunt them down one by one.

“American officials said on Friday that China had paused its spy balloon operations after one of the craft floated across much of the United States early this year and was shot down off the coast of South Carolina, setting off a diplomatic crisis between the rival powers,” said the lead paragraph of a report in The New York Times.

The report credited CNN for playing up the “pause” by China.

As we can see, there remains confusion out there. Was it spying or was it not? Did America shoot down an innocent balloon out of paranoid, or did the floating object deservedly meet its doom because it had been collecting military information, or was it a debatable “pre-emptive” strike that made China become less naughty in the spy game?

September 18, 2023: Many issues and policies are complicated for the Srettha government, but one thing is very simple: the Nakhon Pathom shooting must be tackled straightforwardly and the slightest hint of a cover-up can drag down the entire administration.

The likes of proposed charter amendments, or the digital wallet project, or the cannabis legalisation process are divisive, not just among the Thai public, but also among the government coalition allies themselves. But they are all political, meaning nobody can say with absolute certainty what is right and what is wrong.

The Nakhon Pathom fiasco is different. The public have formed a solid consensus on what should be done. The opposition is also watching. The Srettha administration was founded upon expediency, but a lot of people are harbouring hope that the “colours” could finally be diluted. That hope means Thais want a better society, and they will use how the Kamnan Nok affair evolves as a main measurement.

It’s a simple challenge. If the culprit is brought to justice, a lot of things that happened politically and controversially over the past few weeks may gain some justifications. If rhetoric prevails and nothing else is actually done, the government will fail and all will be punished.

For example, the appointment of Chada Thaised as deputy interior minister can go either way. His controversial background will be 10 times more controversial if the Nakhon Pathom issue ends wrongly. On the other hand, if it is dealt with justly, he can even become a hero after vowing to use his “experiences” to crack down on local mafia.

September 17, 2023: Pita Limjaroenrat’s iTV case and Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s alleged land-grabbing in Ratchaburi are most likely reaching important junctures just before the end of September.

The Constitutional Court, which suspended Pita’s parliamentary role in July, is expected to issue a final ruling sometime this week. That is barring a further delay, which many legal experts think is impossible.

As for Thanathorn, to cut a technically-long story short, he had asked the Administrative Court to override a Land Department order stating that the land he had bought in Ratchaburi was in fact an unsellable piece of forest land. The Administrative Court is said to be ready for a ruling, which may come as early as September 27.

A ruling that Thanathorn does not want will be a big blow for him, both politically and legally.

September 16, 2023: Warnings coming from left and right. A massive amount of state budget required. Blind “populism” suspected. All these dismissed because it is Pheu Thai’s biggest election promise and now must-do policy.

Will the “digital wallet” programme mirror the rice-pledging fiasco, which was a big part of why the Pheu Thai-led Yingluck administration crumbled? Amid all the eerie similarities, one big difference stands out: many of those who ganged up against the scandalous rice pledging are now Pheu Thai’s reluctant allies and not full-scale enemies.

Bad news is that the relationship is extremely fragile, and of all the dangers, this one is the biggest and likeliest. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin will be skating on ultra-thin ice. The digital wallet  can break the ties completely and he can sink before it even begins.

Outside factors torpedoed the rice-pledging scheme, as everyone in the Yingluck government was singing the same tune. Not this time. Trouble will come from the inside. It’s the Opposition’s duty to accuse the government of overspending, and the impact will vastly multiply if criticism is voiced by people backing the administration.

Srettha is not backing down. The Commerce Ministry has been instructed to get “mobile shops” ready for neighbourhoods whose geography will make implementation difficult.

September 15, 2023: Move Forward is in danger of becoming another Pheu Thai, with “leaders” frowned upon as “only just proxies”.

The shocking announcement by Pita Limjaroenrat that he was quitting Move Forward’s helm raised more questions than it answered. His claim that Move Forward would be better off leading the parliamentary opposition with somebody else assuming the party leadership could be sincere, but it also sounded very suspicious.

First it was Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and then him. This brings to mind the revolving door situation at Pheu Thai, or People’s Power, or Thai Rak Thai. But Move Forward is a little different, as it’s not supposed to have a de facto leadership that will grow old by the day and gradually but surely dilute an effectively-projected image of a party for young generations.

Confusion will add to the chaotic formation of the new government that has kicked up clouds of political dust which is still in the air. Speculation will be rife, as the opposition leadership issue is something that could be easily dealt with without Pita having to resign as the Move Forward leader. Analysts will be looking at impending court cases that could rattle not just his status but also others’.

September 14, 2023: Humans tackling growing fears of Artificial Intelligence are doing what AI can’t _ being indecisive.

And if AI can analyse the latest development in Washington, which many think it can, it must be celebrating. (Some AI innovations claim they are not reading news on the net, but believe that at your own risk.)

Human tech heavyweights gathered in the US capital this week to address the concern that AI is very close to _ if not already _ outsmarting and outmanoeuvring the species convinced that they are at the top of the food chain.

Among those in attendance are Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google boss Sundar Pichai, Microsoft’s former CEO Bill Gates and Microsoft’s current CEO Satya Nadella. There were plenty of US lawmakers and civil rights advocates.

Politicians have taken a special interest in AI development. There was a meeting between developers and American lawmakers behind closed doors. ChatGPT creators were also there. The whole forum was called “one of the most important conversations of the year.”

Everyone agreed AI development should be regulated, Musk said. But that was as far as it went. Humans did what humans do at the gathering _ arguing over how.

While the AI advancement can be exponential, the inconclusiveness seen in Washington this week must be good news for the robots. Like what they said in Terminator 2: The Judgement Day, “In a panic, they tried to pull the plug (but it was too late).”

September 13, 2023: Vladimir Putin expressing dismay at charges against Donald Trump and hailing Elon Musk as “outstanding” may have drawn battle lines for next year’s presidential race in America.

Much of the world will get very confused as well. For example, if Trump goes ahead against all odds and returns to the White House, will that mean American voters believed Putin when he said accusations against the former president “showed the rottenness in America’s (Democrat-led) political system”?

What’s happening to Trump is a political persecution hands down, Putin said. The comment brings to mind Trump’s curious remark months ago that anyone but the Russians must have been responsible for the Nord Stream pipeline explosions.

On Musk, perceived as a major pro-Trump character, Putin was very likely thankful over the Starlink affair. The Russian president hailed the tech billionaire as an “outstanding person” and businessman because the latter’s SpaceX company has become a key player in the space transportation industry, but global analysts linked the admiration to one thing in particular.

Putin’s public praise of Musk at a forum on Tuesday came days after the South African-born and United States-based entrepreneur said he turned down a Ukrainian request last year to activate his Starlink satellite communication network in the Russian-annexed Crimean port city of Sevastopol to aid an attack on Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Musk’s rejection motives? The man who apparently is fast becoming a thorn in the US administration’s side said he feared complicity in a “major” act of war.

September 12, 2023: Relatively-reticent female newscasters have one big change in common these days. Their voices are harsh. Some cursed, while others barely held back impolite exclamations. What happened in Nakhon Pathom has been unbearable and they are not going to let their male colleagues do all the scolding and swearing.

Pledges have been made that no stone will be left unturned. They are not a signed statement but represent a virtual and accidental consensus among TV journalists, news websites and YouTubers.

People in the news industry are often taught to avoid being guided by emotions, but this one is a big exception. One TV news commentator said Thais simply cannot live in a society where a police officer was gunned down in front of his two dozen colleagues, who, according to reports, instead of protecting him rushed to help the alleged culprit and distorted or destroyed the evidence.

“There is no way we will ever forget about this case,” he said. “We will scrutinise all the developments whenever they come.”

“Look at this,” another newscaster said. “How could a kamnan order one whole bunch of senior police officials to strip almost naked at a party?” The same newscaster went on to show a clip of a senior officer wishing the kamnan a “clear business path where nothing gets in your way.”

September 11, 2023: Budget spending, censure and proposed charter amendments are important, but they all will go to waste unless the new administration uproots the very scourge that has all but consumed Nakhon Pathom and God knows where else.

One police officer has been gunned down in the presence of several others, who have been suspended, and/or transferred and facing investigation. Another senior police officer has reportedly committed suicide, probably out of shame. Suspected business irregularities allegedly helped enrich and empower the man being accused of being the main culprit. The justice system is teetering between being a farce and last resort.

That’s what we call the real travesty, and it transcends the realm of ideological fight. Have we been barking up the wrong tree all these years? Very likely.

Srettha Thavisin’s policy statement and the opposition’s dutiful attacks on it will mean absolutely nothing. An ability to keep coalition partners happy will mean nothing. Political factions being kept quiet will mean nothing. And even 10 more elections and 10 more charters will mean nothing.

If they can’t get rid of this virus, that is.

September 10, 2023: With each passing day, investigation into the scandalous Nakhon Pathom shooting is revealing more shame in the already-huge embarrassment of the Thai police and possible irregularities between the key suspect and other bureaucracies.

The “failure to act” seems now just the tip of the iceberg. Suspected shady business deals may involve other authorities and the alleged villain; destruction of evidence might have happened with the knowledge of some of officials present at the crime scene and beyond; and the alleged gunman might have had the assistance of some men in uniform during and after the crime.

In short, the case is exposing everything that is seriously wrong in Thailand’s justice system.

September 9, 2023: Angry government reaction and promises that heads will roll in the wake of the shameful Nakhon Pathom shooting dead of a policeman will not pacify the Thai public until real justice is really served.

We have seen and heard such reaction and vows before, only for them to add insult to injury later. Only real action will do this time. The extra-judicial killing of the alleged gunman did not fill the Thai public with confidence. On the contrary, it has spawned fears and intensified speculation that loose ends are being tied up so the real culprit again will be let off the hook eventually.

But there are times when scandalous facts are so glaring, repulsive and overwhelming that they won’t go away and there is no way to twist them or sweep them under the carpet. This case shocks the public not only because it happened in full view of many other senior police officers who dishonourably failed to do anything before, during and after the crime, but also because it has come when true meaning of “justice” is supposed to finally arrive and old “local mafia” politics is supposed to fade into the background.

September 8, 2023: The ruling party’s daily minimum wage promise is questioned everywhere except, apparently, at its headquarters.

A coffee shop at the Pheu Thai building is recruiting a part-time Choc Mint maker, with a curious offer that matches the party’s controversial vow. Interested applicants are looking at Bt600 per day for part-time work.

The only prerequisite for the job at ThinkLab creative space and café is that he or she must be able to make great Choc Mint, which Paetongtarn Shinawatra loves and is famous at the coffee shop.

Applications can be sent directly to the Facebook page of the facility.

September 7, 2023: A new Chinese smartphone has alarmed US lawmakers, spawned contempt for American sanctions, prompted suspicion about technological theft and left the rest of the world wondering how greater human advancement would have been if the superpowers had cooperated instead of trying to block each other.

Shares in SMIC, China’s largest contract chipmaker, plunged today, after two US congressmen called on the White House to further restrict export sales to the company, CNN reported. The development followed Huawei Technologies’ introduction of the Mate 60 Pro, a smartphone powered by a curious chip believed to have been provided by SMIC.

On the one hand, the production of the phone against all odds a big breakthrough. On the other hand, many in America believe the Chinese phone is impossible without American technology. Either way, America paying attention to the Mate 60 Pro is helping promote the Chinese product, with Chinese internet memes even naming US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo the unofficial brand ambassador of the Mate 60 series.

CNN said the memes revolved around the idea that the US sanctions, initiated and enforced by the US Commerce Department, had inspired China’s homegrown firms to work with their available technology and come up with an amazing end product.

Did SMIC violate sanctions? Or have the Chinese achieved something remarkable? There must be layers of secrets but one thing is certain: Today’s smartphones would have been much more marvellous without the unhealthy competition.

September 6, 2023: Conspiracy theorists predicting a former US president will be assassinated is one thing, but one of America’s top media personalities making such a prediction is quite another.

Tucker Carlson, the well-known news media personality formerly of Fox News, is a highly-influential household name with one of the highest broadcast ratings, and millions have followed him from mainstream to social media. His X (Twitter) followers number 10 million and counting. His grim prediction is based on legal cases battering Donald Trump, which he sees as a sign that the former president’s opponents wanted to take him out of the next US presidential race so badly and would resort to the most extreme measure if current efforts failed.

“I mean, look: They protested him, they called him names, he won anyway,” Carlson told a podcast host. “They impeached him — twice — on ridiculous (pretexts). They fabricated a lot about what happened on Jan 6 in order to impeach him again. It didn’t work. He came back, then they indicted him. It didn’t work — he became more popular. Then they indicted him three more times, and every single time his popularity rose.”

“We’re speeding toward assassination, obviously,” the outspoken political commentator said. “And no one will say that, but I don’t know how you can’t reach that conclusion.”

What is happening to Trump is a shame, he emphasised. “If this were happening in Moldova, the state department would issue an all-hands-on-deck order to let the world know this is not a legitimate government,” he said. “And yet our government is doing it. It’s hard to overstate how bad this is, and I’m not. I don’t know where it’s going, but there’s a collision that’s clearly imminent. Biden’s not running the government, you know, so like I don’t know. I’ve never been this worried about anything as I am about where this is going.”

Pro-government mainstream media have begun a Carlson-bashing spree, but they are fighting against a social media superman who often attracted larger audiences to his “Live” broadcasts than those watching conventional news sessions.

Granted, Carlson is always openly supportive of Trump and usually voices concern about the latter’s safety, to the Democrats’ dismay. However, this is Sorrayuth Suthassanachinda multiplied by a lot. Carlson’s latest comment on Trump’s well-being has kicked up a big storm and would only deepen America’s already-critical political divide ahead of next year’s presidential election (which Carlson himself seems unsure of).

September 5, 2023: The Srettha administration is expected to face a heavy grilling by the Senate when the new administration presents its policy statement to Parliament, according to a senator.

Wanchai Sornsiri said that the much-proclaimed and much-questioned matter of reconciliation, the proposed “digital wallet” programme that Pheu Thai advocates but viewed with suspicion by many of the current coalition partners during the election campaign, and the fate of Thailand’s controversial Constitution require more than beat-around-the-bush mentioning by the government.

“The Senate will want clarity, and the government will not be able to go home if it does not talk about those issues in great details,” Wanchai said.

He added that another major issue is the economy. The government will need to explain how it plans to address demands of the general public, create substantial changes for the better and give the people new hopes.

September 4, 2023: The new prime minister did not give the Pheu Thai Cabinet members a sugar-coated encouragement when they had lunch today at the party’s headquarters. They got from him a blunt warning that there would be no room for failure because the party is risking everything including its own future.

Delayed budgets can’t be used as excuses, and neither can legislative obstacles, he told them. “If the laws are the problems, we will have to change the laws,” he said. “If implementation is the problem, we will have to switch to those who can.”

He told the Pheu Thai ministers that the party investing a lot to get to be the administration was an understatement. Pheu Thai, he said, has gone all in therefore failure was not an option.

September 3, 2023: Recent opinion polls have one thing in common _ they clearly have come up with similar findings on what the Thai public want the new government to do.

Get the economy going smoothly and putting food on every household table are what Thais want most from the Srettha administration, according to an apparent consensus.

Super Poll is the latest to have come up with “priorities”. It surveyed over 1,130 people over the past few days and more than 81 % identified their economic struggles as their biggest problem. A distant second (72.5 %) is quite unexpected _ the legal and psychological disruptions caused by online criminals led by the “call centre” gangsters.

Third (slightly over 71 %) is drug peddling and addiction. Fourth (a little below 70 %) is other crimes causing feeling of insecurity in day-to-day life. That is followed by education and youth (over 65 %) and corruption (62.4 %).

September 2, 2023: India’s Moon landing success is being eclipsed by a curious new crater America has found on our planet’s nearest celestial neighbour.

While India has successfully joined the world’s elite club (which nobody knows for sure how big) that achieved a soft landing on the Moon, western media are giving attention to Russia’s latest attempt which has apparently ended in a crash landing.

Russia’s Luna-25 spacecraft which was meant to herald a new wave of Moscow’s space exploration campaign, seemingly made a hard impact with the Moon’s surface just days before India’s Vikram lander touched down successfully.

A new crater has appeared on the moon, CNN said, and further reported that it was likely created by the crash landing of Russia’s unmanned Luna 25.

The network said images taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and released by the agency on Thursday reveal the fresh crater.

The Luna 25 spacecraft, Russia’s first lunar lander in 47 years, launched on August 10 and was expected to land near the lunar south pole a couple of weeks later, according to CNN.

Imagine crash landing on the Moon decades after the US had successfully (not without intense suspicion, though) landed on it.

September 1, 2023: Thaksin Shinawatra’s leaning toward the establishment, the new governing coalition bringing together past ideological rivals, and the rise of the Move Forward Party with its own die-hard supporters all point to the high possibility that the red-shirt movement will become splintered with some of its elements more extreme than others.

Will the red shirts remain a political force to be reckoned with? Possibly but tough. Possibly because Pheu Thai, which they support, is being forced to compromise, not exactly willing to do so. This means that there is always a chance the red shirts will return to their characteristic aggression. Tough because even if Pheu Thai wants to make another U-turn yet, such a move will be difficult for obvious reasons. If Pheu Thai finds it hard to manoeuvre, so will the red shirts.

The movement will have many shades. Very likely, some red shirts will become benign, others will maintain the trademarked rebellious attitude, and some others still will turn “orange” completely after disavowing Pheu Thai. What happens to the Srettha coalition will determine which group is the biggest and then the long-term future of the movement.

Daily updates of major local and global news by Tulsathit Taptim