11 July 2024

October 31, 2023: Two lawmakers of the biggest party might be staring at expulsion if it holds a disciplinary meeting on Wednesday (November 1) following conclusion of an investigation into sex-related charges.

The meeting is being sought after party investigation has been completed. Results are that allegations of sexual harassment and sexual violations “have grounds”, according to Benja Saengjan, who leads a Move Forward committee set up to tackle sexual violence.

It’s not immediately clear, though, whether the disciplinary meeting will definitely take place.

“We are taking it very seriously and we consider violations to be extreme disciplinary offences,” she said. The following is up for any interpretation, but it does not look good for the accused.

“We want to raise the social standard so our principle is that society must be really equal,” she said. “This is a social, not individual, matter. If you ask me if we should bemoan the possible loss of human resources, I would say we have a process that will be based on facts, not prejudices,” she said.

It’s a hard ball back to the executives’ court.

October 30, 2023: Every detail, piece of evidence, testimony and behavior will be placed under the microscope _ some of them one more time _ after the Mukdahan criminal court has decided to postpone reading its ruling on the Nong Chompoo case to late December.

Speculation has been rife because the new verdict date is many weeks away, a considerably lengthy pause that many thought should have been announced sooner, not a few hours before the original date of October 31.

Yet the case is anything but normal. First, the police suspects who finally turned into official court defendants actually got rich from the charges. Secondly, their loyal “YouTubers”, some of them working on their land, have been trumpeting their “innocence”, a strategy unused before by any other criminal defendant. Thirdly, many reputations are at stake, including those of the entire Police Department, the prosecutors’ office, religious figures, famous song writers, artists, newscasters and other celebrities.

Critics and admirers of defendants Chaiyaphol Wipa and his wife Somporn are interpreting the postponement differently, although the court insisted that it only had to do with some cross-checking and making sure everything is all right.

Courts have postponed reading verdicts before. The announcement might have been motivated by the great publicity surrounding the case, with supporters and opponents of Loong Phol and Pa Taen planning to show up for the verdict en masse, creating fears of untoward incidents. One thing is almost certain: The everyone-plays-a-detective frenzy that engulfed Thailand three years ago will return, although this time it might not lead to a Beatlemania phenomenon like back then.

October 29, 2023: The first time body language readers frowned, Thailand’s prime minister was with one of the most powerful men in the world. The second time it was with one of the most powerful women in Thailand.

And again, criticism is revolving around whether he was acting too humbly.

Kissing the hand of Paetongtarn Shinawatra after she was named new Pheu Thai leader could have passed for a sweet and polite male gesture. Only, critics charge, he looked too respectful, almost like a servant kissing the hand of his mistress.

Just like after he met Russian leader Vladimir Putin, pictures went viral. And this time, “Thai culture of politeness and humility” can’t be used to defend him to great effect.

To be fair, Srettha’s large structure may make him overdo certain actions. In this latter case, Paetongtarn’s face in under scrutiny, too. Her expressed “pride” is too much for many people’s liking.

Meanwhile, in a comment totally unrelated to the hand-kissing incident, former Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan said the appointment of Paetongtarn as the new Pheu Thai leader despite the fact that Srettha is the prime minister proved that Thai politics remains hugely abnormal. Jatuporn cited several things including the jaw-dropping formula of the Srettha coalition government that has brought politicians with clashing policies together.

“Soon enough, Srettha will be the most pitiful person in Thailand,” he said.

October 28, 2023: Russia is tightlipped, the United States is outspokenly vague, and the European Union is ambivalent, and all these were because of the question that always co-exists with mankind: Should we condone tit for tat?

Moscow can’t condemn Israel’s Gaza campaign of terror because of Ukraine. The United States can’t condemn Israel because it’s a highly important ally, and Washington has conducted a series of “revenge invasions” itself. Europe is worse, torn between its condemnation of Russia, which is carrying out another kind of arguably-subtle tit for tat (Ukraine did not do what Hamas did, but Russia claims it’s avenging developments threatening its national security), and the fears of upsetting the United States and Israel too much.

For small countries like Thailand, the Hamas cruelty is a no-brainer condemnation. Bangkok is more invested than any of the rest.

Hence the on-going Gaza sufferings while everyone is talking humanitarianism.

October 27, 2023: It’s safe to say that the new Pheu Thai leader is “more real” than most of the predecessors. By that, while party members could challenge or confront Cholanan Srikaew or Yongyuth Wichaidit when they did not like their plans, whenever Paetongtarn Shinawatra speaks, they listen.

Pheu Thai and the Shinawatras can’t exist without each other. Thaksin is a liability, yes, but he is also the party’s asset (and probably one of its most important sponsors as well). And Paetongtarn is the closest thing to him.

That’s her easy part. In Pheu Thai’s ideal world, this is supposed to be a smooth grooming period to prepare her for the premiership. The grooming certainly is still the case, but it will be far less smooth than initially expected. Move Forward will see to it, and so will current frenemies of Pheu Thai.

October 26, 2023: In politics, testiness is always more than what it appears to be, so the prime minister being moodily vague about digital wallet might give opponents of the controversial programme a small dot of faint light at the end of the tunnel.

He did not want to give any definite answer now because, he insisted, reporters might pick on just one sentence and ignore the whole context of the deadly-important agenda of the ruling Pheu Thai Party.

“Please wait a little bit,” he said. “I don’t want to discuss it in small parts at different times, for that can confuse the public. It’s better to address (digital wallet) as a whole, touching on everything including real needs of the people, budgetary impact and other economic data.”

With all due respect, one-sided information has often come from the government side, whereas the critics have been trying to point out that financial figures are as important as what voters want or need.

The likeliest possibility is that Srettha meant what he said and digital wallet will take shape no matter what. We shall not ignore the least-likely possibility, though, which is that criticism is forcing some significant changes.

Meanwhile, the honeymoon between Srettha and military-backed parties appears to still continue, this time manifesting in the form of a United Thai Nation MP’s comment in Parliament today. Akkaradet Wongpitakroj said that the prime minister’s decision to tackle questions by himself in Parliament underscored his “democratic spirit”.

The Democrat Party’s Chaichana Detdecho could not help it. In response to Akkaradet’s remark, Chaichana asked the prime minister’s aides to give the prime minister some anti-diabetes pills because Srettha’s allies “gave him a lot of sweets today.”

October 25, 2023: Everyone knows something is wrong with the world order, but when the head of the United Nations was asked to resign for calling for an end to a war that has killed more than 2,000 children, it’s getting beyond pathetic.

CNN quoted aid group Save the Children as reporting the shocking death toll. In addition to that, the network quoted the Palestinian Ministry of Health as saying that over 700 people in Gaza had been killed in the past day alone, the highest daily number since Israeli air strikes began two and a half weeks ago.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the intensified Israel’s Gaza campaign “deeply alarming.” CNN said he reiterated his appeal for “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” a two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and an immediate release of all hostages “without conditions.”

The plea for hostages’ release during his remarks to the Security Council on the Middle East Tuesday could not pacify Israel’s foreign minister. Eli Cohen said on Tuesday he will not meet with the UN chief to discuss ceasefire as Hamas “must be eased off the face of the planet!”and Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan went one step further, calling on Guterres “to resign immediately” after his remarks. Erdan’s social media remarks claimed Guterres “is not fit to lead the UN.”

It’s hard to see what is wrong with Guterres’ Gaza comments. While he said that the Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation, the UN head did emphasise that  “the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas.” His opinion that innocent Palestinians should not be “collectively punished” for radical action they knew nothing about is based on the principles that the United Nations were born out of, isn’t it?

Everyone knows the United Nations is a paper tiger, and the top Israel officials arguably have the right to express public anger. But if those who matter lose trust, respect and confidence in the world body completely, it’s very dangerous.

October 24, 2023: If ones want to pummel Gaza (or back the action) until all the hostages of the Hamas are freed, a powerful political statement is needed.

“To all of you hurting — those of you who are hurting, I want you to know: I see you,” US President Joe Biden has said in a message to all angry Muslims especially those in America who analysts say may abandon the Democratic Party in droves in next year’s American election. “You belong. And I want to say this to you: You’re all America. You’re all America.”

The speech was written at length for Palestinians, both in the US and in Gaza.

“I know many of you in the Muslim American community or the Arab American community, the Palestinian American community, and so many others are outraged and hurting, saying to yourselves, ‘Here we go again,’ with Islamophobia and distrust we saw after 9/11,” he said.

It’s beautiful, but is it enough? Few political speeches are better if you want the best of both worlds. Yet some analysts still foresee a backlash on the election year. The US administration must be feeling the same, as information on “US humanitarian concern” is being drummed up for media outlets to compete with footages and pictures of frightened Gaza children and their mothers.

But whatever the US government is doing is irrelevant, including the reported attempt to stop a ground invasion, as long as the death toll and suffering grow rapidly in the fierce Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

And Biden’s admission that many Muslims in America must be hurting showed he knew his government was involved in something hardly defensible.

The anticipated political backlash in America could be manageable, because American Muslims are only a small portion of voters. But the race can be close again and that will raise their importance in tightly contested battleground states like Michigan and Pennsylvania. Exit polls show a clear majority of Muslims voted for Biden in 2020, but many are reportedly saying he had broken their hearts due to the way his government is treating Israel and Gaza.

October 23, 2023: Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has talked up Paetongtarn Shinawatra as potentially the new leader of his party lately, but that is not as important as the growing need for Pheu Thai to lose its image as the only political party in Parliament to be led by a proxy someone without a clout.

This is not to say that she will not be regarded as a proxy of Thaksin Shinawatra. This is to say that since anyone will be considered his proxy anyway, the party should do it in style. After all, the threat of party dissolution has largely decreased so anyone important will be safe to a great extent if he or she is in the executive board.

Simply put, the merry-go-round has to end.

Last but not least, Pheu Thai wouldn’t want to go into the next election hearing Move Forward say “Look at our leader and look at their leader”, would it?

Senior Pheu Thai strategists close to Thaksin can be proper candidates, but there are some key problems with that. First, they have been there all along so if they had wanted it or if the party had thought it was a good idea, one of them would have taken the helm already. Secondly, no offence, but if the party wants to project a new-generation image, they aren’t the ones.

Why not Srettha himself? (He’s the prime minister, for crying out loud.) There is no answer more correct than “Thai politics is funny.”

This leaves Paetongtarn.

October 22, 2023: Increasing pro-Palestinian protests around the globe should warn whoever behind the tit-for-tat developments in and around Gaza that the earlier Hamas terror is fading into the background and the initial “victim” is becoming the ultimate villain.

The protests are taking place against the backdrop of what looks like a double track policy of highlighting the Palestinians’ plights yet giving Israel a free license to kill in revenge.

But sending humanitarian aid to the Palestinians only strengthens the perception that they are being treated unfairly and so cruelly and that they are innocent people just like the victims of the Hamas attack. And while the previous incident could be pictured or filmed in its aftermath, the on-going suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza is being broadcast live or documented heavily by multiple sources around the clock.

Most important of all, however, the global audience is being forced to dig into history in detail and that won’t help Israel and its backers. Palestine is a huge human rights issue suppressed by religious complications, global politics and those who control international mechanisms that are supposed to stand up against all abusers but are being suspected of distortions themselves. Now, that human rights issue is escaping the usual restrictions to the full glare of the world thanks to the Gaza bombardment.

Throughout human history, many people have won by playing victims. The Palestinians are not pretending to be ones, though, and that will magnify their chances of successfully making their case.

October 21, 2023: They say if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. But if critics are to be believed, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin will argue that the cold air in the room where he met Russian leader Vladimir Putin is not pleasant either.

But to be fair to Srettha, his demeanour during the meeting looked fine to a large number of people, especially those who don’t think too much of it. But that’s why we need body language interpreters, isn’t it?

The professionals say Srettha appeared too awkward and humble. Foreigners who are body language readers have been joined by Thai critics who are screaming “Dignity!!! Mr Prime Minister, don’t forget dignity even though we are a small country.”

The “heat” (or cold air-conditioning in this case) has become such a big political deal that the Thai prime minister office’s spokesman has to come out to defend his boss. There was nothing wrong with the Thai culture of politeness and humility panning out on the global stage, said Chai Watcharong.

Some people on a second look at the Srettha-Putin photos may find Putin to be more relaxed on the chair with his legs visibly more apart than Srettha’s. The Thai leader also seemed to keep his hands together all the time, like, some may say, when you are with a senior person.

“I can guarantee you that he was dignified yet polite as a Thai should be,” said the Thai spokesman, who bemoaned the fact that those who criticised Srettha’s body language only saw brief footages or a few still photos that did not do justice to the Thai leader’s agenda-packed trip to China.

“Let’s not focus on his grace, though,” Chai said. “Let’s focus on what he has achieved from negotiations and what Thailand will get from them.”

In politics, you can’t control where the “heat” comes from, however. According to one report, a tweeting Polish body language reader had never seen a leader “so awkward in front of Putin” before.

October 20, 2023: Pheu Thai having pro-military camps as coalition partners has somehow decreased cutthroat politics between the second-biggest party and its rivals, and that could explain Paetongtarn Shinawatra’s stand on party leadership.

She is more open toward taking Pheu Thai’s helm nowadays, apparently less afraid of a party dissolution campaign that could put political futures of executive board members in jeopardy.

“Are you ready if they elect you?” she was asked today by reporters about Pheu Thai’s leadership election. “Yes” was the answer that spoke a thousand more words.

October 19, 2023: Now they are arguing over wordings that can pause some bombardment.

CNN reports that the United States has vetoed a draft resolution at the UN Security Council which called for a pause in Gaza fighting so that providing assistance could be a little more convenient.

The network says the brief draft resolution, proposed by Brazil, condemned the October 7 terror attacks in Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas and urged the release of hostages taken. But the draft also called on all parties to comply with international law and protect civilian lives in Hamas-controlled Gaza amid a ferocious retaliation by Israel. The international community should engineer “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting to allow for aid delivery, it said.

Twelve of the council’s 15 members approved the draft on Wednesday, with the UK and Russia abstaining, and a US veto.

As death tolls mounted, US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield was quoted by CNN as saying that the US wanted more time to let American on-the-ground diplomacy “play out.” The US had previously delayed voting on the resolution.

That sounds barely reasonable. But it even pales beside the following. Thomas-Greenfield also criticised the text for failing to mention Israel’s right to self-defense – a point later echoed by the British representative Barbara Woodward.

The two diplomats did say so. Major news websites have confirmed it. It’s not a joke.

Meanwhile, Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah has issued a call for humanitarian aid to reach Gaza ‘immediately’ in an emotional and powerful social media message, according to Mail Online. The outlet says Salah recorded a monologue issuing a call for world leaders to help ‘prevent’ any further loss of life and to stop families being ‘torn apart’. The recorded plea went viral and Salah’s twitter message carrying the monologue was getting close to one million likes as of today.

October 18, 2023: Now they are arguing over who are less evil. As if some morality can be restored for Israel or its enemies, they have blamed each other for a hospital blast in Gaza that killed a lot of people.

Look at the photos, Israel says, no way could our rockets cause that kind of damage and fire. It was a hit from a close proximity, hence a friendly shot.

The fighters in Gaza strongly dismiss that. You sprayed your rockets on everyone’s head killing numerous people and innocent people complain nowhere is safe, but now you are blaming a failed rocket launch from our side?

Pointless argument. Wars are indiscriminate, end of story.

October 17, 2023: Some may think American President Joe Biden’s extraordinary wartime visit to Israel this week should have come a bit sooner.

The world’s anti-Hamas sentiment was somehow not as strong as last week, and criticism of the Israeli response is also growing. Although the White House insists that America is demonstrating support for a major ally while also pressing for greater humanitarian approaches for Gaza, the imminent Biden visit can backfire politically.

Biden will have to carry highly-complicated double objectives. International analysts say few would consider Biden’s trip as a “Stop it” message to Israel. Rather, the majority of the world is convinced that America’s main statement to Israel is “We are with you.”

Whatever it actually is, the journey is a big risk. Certainly, the Arab world will not like it, and the picture of the Palestinians being bullied by superior powers will not become less distinct because of the visit. With humanitarian uproars increasingly deafening, the US government may find itself in their middle.

October 16, 2023: A dangerous situation is developing as the prime minister is thinking that critics of the digital wallet policy are part of cutthroat politics, activist Jatuporn Prompan has warned.

The real and only motive of the critics is concern that the shaky Thai economy would not be able to bear the policy’s massive cost of Bt560 billion, Jatuporn said.

In other words, the opposition has come from economic, not political, reasons.

Just check out the names of those opposed to the programme, Jatuporn pointed out. “They are not those competing to form a government nor are they direct rivals of the Pheu Thai Party,” he said. “They are just concerned about the country.”

Srettha is dangerously politicising the project by asking poor people to voice support, the former Red Shirt leader said.

Jatuporn himself has a few questions regarding digital wallet. First, if it’s really good and the government as well as the Thai economy is ready, why not now? Second, for all the talks about the project being thought of thoroughly, can the government go public on where the fund is coming from, in detail? Third, can Srettha explain his claim that a family with many adults will be able to “stand on its feet all of a sudden” after receiving digital money, as the “cash” has expiry date, will come with other restrictions, and will be valuable only when given to product makers, in this case rich entrepreneurs?

October 15, 2023: Piyabutr Saengkanokkul has shared many online posts, but his latest action must have made a lot of friends frown.

An outspoken and celebrity supporter of the Pheu Thai Party, Kam Phaka, has launched fresh attacks on Move Forward following a series of sex-related accusations. Many people have “liked” it, but few would expect Piyabutr to share it with a lot of approving emoji including three hearts.

To sum up her tweet, she said a public Move Forward and a private Move Forward are different, and the biggest party is full of cases of female exploitations with its “disciplinary” people working to soften the blow and gearing their investigation toward “women asking for it”.

Piyabutr shared it without adding anything. But his emoji spoke volumes.

October 14, 2023: Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has urged supporters of the controversial digital wallet policy to make their voices heard as a big political showdown between those advocating and opposed to the contentious programme is guaranteed.

In a Twitter message, Srettha mentioned “unreasonable” opposition to the plan although he had said that sound advices from those thinking that the programme had flaws would be heeded.

“There are people who agree with the plan and there are people who don’t like it, but let’s imagine this altogether. If Bt560 billion is out there and you are an entrepreneur, would you push for your product to be part of the action?” he said, reinforcing his belief that the massive availability of spending money would boost the economy.

“If you agree with me and like this project, don’t let unreasonable opposition block it. Make your voices heard. Tell us that you are happy and glad to see that this government is doing it for you. We want encouragement, not least because what we plan to do is for the well-being of the Thai people,” he said.

It’s a rare rallying cry from a government leader facing a rare opposition to a rare economic programme.

October 13, 2023: A veteran politician has voiced strong disapproval of any government attempt to officially name “local mafia” figures, saying that human rights controversies to emerge as a result of such a move would snowball into a legal and political crisis too big to control.

Even the much-maligned Prayut government deemed by many as “dictatorial” never thought about making such a list, said Nipit Intarasombat, a former party-list candidate of the Palang Pracharath Party.

Making a list of “influential people” will not be supported by law, and in the end the government will be considered to be wielding undue influences itself, he said.

“If such a list is made and any name comes out, the government will collapse. Mark my words,” Nipit said, pointing out that if there was proof that the ministers were aware of such a list, the entire Cabinet would fall.

There are other ways to deal with problems that resulted in the recent Nakhon Pathom fiasco, he added.

October 12, 2023: The biggest political party’s Facebook page is getting bombarded with sarcastic comments as it fights sex-related charges, and its spokesman has admitted that there could be more than what has been made public.

One Bangkok MP of the Move Forward Party, Sirin Sa-nguensin, has been penalised by the party following charges of physically assaulting a woman, using abusive words against her and damaging a mobile phone. The man will be barred from having a party position and prohibited from chairing a House committee. The penalty will be extended to expulsion from the party if similar offences are committed in the future.

A former Move Forward election candidate for Chaiyaphum, Kiangkrai Jankokphueng, has been expelled from the party with immediate effect after charges of sexual violence. Rumours have swirled about an election runner of the party raping a woman.

An internal investigation has also been launched into sexual harassment charges against another Move Forward MP, Wuttiphong Thonglour. The party said the final results should be known by the end of this month.

There is another case yet, according to Move Forward spokesman Parit Wacharasindhu. “We haven’t received direct complaints but the said man’s behaviour might fall into the sexual harassment category. We are in the process of gathering information and contacting the affected party,” he said.

The party’s Facebook page is drawing criticism related to all the allegations. Some of the comments claim Move Forward was too quiet about them for comfort. Others ask if Sirin’s “punishment” was too light.

October 11, 2023: Cruelty is expanding, and in a few days the question of who is committing what war crimes might become virtually irrelevant, engulfed by the cries of the suffering innocents both inside and outside Gaza.

The Hamas rampage and the taking of the hostages was generally condemned, but Israel’s response is looking increasingly controversial itself. Israel’s siege of Gaza is illegal, EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell has said, while insisting that European aid to Palestine will keep flowing.

“Israel has a right to self-defence, but it has to be done within international law … cutting water, cutting electricity, cutting food to a mass of civilian people is against international law,” said EU foreign policy chief Borrell on Tuesday (10 October).

He repeated the view, the first EU direct criticism of Israel, more than once in his press briefing. “The Palestinian people are also suffering,” he added. With the United States vowing to fully back Israel, Borrell’s statement is raising many questions as death tolls keep ballooning and uninvolved countries preparing themselves for tough diplomatic and possibly religious choices.

So, not only is cruelty escalating. Global complications are, too.

October 10, 2023: A former high-profile member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission has warned the Srettha government that the digital wallet policy might send a lot of people to jail because the proposed programme is “extremely risky”.

Methee Klongkaew said Pheu Thai might find it politically necessary to fulfill an election vow, but that might pitch those involved against the NACC which is obliged to ignore political necessities and give utmost importance to legality. He was one of many academics including former heads of the Central Bank who have petitioned the government against the digital wallet idea.

Methee insisted that an ominous example is there, in the form of the legal crackdown on the rice pledging agenda of the Yingluck government.

“I remember the NACC voiced several warnings but the government went ahead anyway,” he said, adding that the Yingluck administration ignoring the warning made it easier for investigators to establish intent and hence malpractice.

The NACC must be keeping a close watch on digital wallet developments, building expertise and doing researches in the process.

It’s not just the NACC, he stated. Ombudsmen and the State Audit Office can launch investigation if complaints are credible or reasonable, he said.

“I’m seeing only a path strewn with obstacles and I don’t get the stubbornness. Many may end up going to jail. I don’t know what they will wade through fire for,” Methee concluded.

October 9, 2023: Israel condemns “blatant war crimes”. Look who’s talking, the other side says, adding that those whose history starts only when Israelis are killed have goldfish memory. The United States, forgetting it invaded Iraq against the will of the world, now is bemoaning the painful fact that overwhelming UN numbers can’t forge an absolute anti-Hamas consensus. Moscow expresses grave concern.

Amid the prevalent absurdity, there are signs that the whole thing might benefit Russia, strategically and politically, and expand the US-Russian intense showdown toward the Middle East. After all, Russia’s treatment of Ukraine bear similarity with Israel’s treatment of the hostile communities at its doorstep.

October 8, 2023: Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s defence of the controversial digital wallet policy is not always orthodox.

Or logical, to put it bluntly. Let’s take this weekend’s comment as an example. He basically said that academics coming out to attack the policy are just a small part of the population, whose majority could not wait to get Bt10,000 promised by his political party to spend at government-assigned shops within government-drawn radiuses.

“I humbly accept the criticism, but you (the critics) are just one voice in many,” he said in Roi Et on Saturday. “Tens of millions of Thai citizens want digital money and we are doing our best to ensure that everyone get the maximum benefits of the programme.”

He indicated that it was good to hear praises from rural people, because “Over the past 48 hours (all I heard was) disapproval expressed by certain academics who want the project to be scrapped.”

He insisted that all suggestions including those from the Central Bank would be heeded, but he firmly stated that his government would definitely go ahead with the policy.

From his remarks, though, it seems that his lines are blurred regarding what is needed by the majority and what should be done. Ask any poor person if he or she wants Bt10,000 from the government, nine out of 10 would say yes.

There is a reason why countries don’t use referendums to fix interest rates or increase or decrease currencies’ values. By his apparent logic, they should.

October 7, 2023: While there are still months to go, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is looking lonely already when the plan to give Bt10,000 to all Thais over the age of 16 is concerned.

A signature campaign that included several former heads of the Central Bank and senior economics lecturers is piling pressure. It seems like a controversial policy whose contentious points were purely economic initially will soon involve egos and political faces as Srettha is appearing more determined than ever.

With Srettha’s current coalition allies not agreeing with the digital wallet policy at the beginning, it can be him against the world not too long from now.

The petitioners whose action has been overshadowed by a big crime story insist that the digital wallet programme is not necessary because the economy is not in a coma requiring such a massive rescue. They warn that inflation can also skyrocket and the staggering budgetary concern will distract the government from issues where needs and importance are real, like the development of human resources.

But Srettha is not budged. Not only does he say following the open letter that the policy will definitely go on, he also emphasises that the blanket manner of the distribution, which means the money also goes to the rich, is “impossible” to scrap.

Like they say, pride always comes before a fall.

October 6, 2023: When you love someone, you can never really say goodbye, but shouldn’t Piyabutr Saengkanokkul have waited a little longer?

Late last month, he wished Move Forward the best of luck in an emotional farewell message in which he said that caring did not necessarily mean having to be there while the thing he loved moved on.

But true love never dies and, if his latest online post is any indication, it needs to be seen as well. Piyabutr’s Twitter (X) message slammed Move Forward’s new leadership as being useless after the biggest party agreed to accept leading just eight House committees instead of 11.

“If Move Forward supporters don’t say “What?” and if Move Forward MPs don’t say “What?”, something is seriously wrong,” Piyabutr tweeted. “I know people will scold me after this. They will remind me that I promised not to speak out against the party ever again. But if I don’t, nobody will.”

He said Move Forward was naïve when it came to political games, and the House committee situation is the latest proof. But he added that although most people would criticise him, many Move Forward MPs were actually waiting for him to question the party’s “lukewarm” fight for chairmanship of House committees.

He was adamant that the real problem is not him breaking the promise to stay silent, but party members failing to talk to one another.  He also said that some people found it embarrassing for Move Forward MPs to quarrel among themselves in front of others for key House committee positions.

October 5, 2023: Hotel rooms and resorts have been fully booked in Mukdahan for October 31, as the mainstream media outlets prepare for what is guaranteed to be a historic ruling on the mysterious death of a three-year-old girl.

Urgent and temporary recruitments of locals to help in the coverage of the Criminal Court conclusion of “Nong Chompoo” case are said to be going on, as manpower would have to be split on that day. Some would have to interview her mother and immediate family members. Others would have to cover Loong Phol, Thailand’s most celebrated criminal suspect who graced catwalks, drew screams while performing on concert stages, drew over a million views on YouTube by simply eating rice and omelet for camera, appeared on variety TV programmes and had well-known music makers compose songs for him.

Reporters assigned to be at the provincial court on October 31 have privately agreed to share some footages, like in case of a conviction ruling and Loong Phol or Chaiyaphol Wipa has to board a transport to prison, in which case his public appearance will be very brief. The arrangement is not totally professional but is described by local reporters as necessary if he and his wife, the only defendants in the case, are found guilty. If they are set free, it will be competition as normal.

Mainstream media’s coverage Loong Phol went cold after he and his wife were officially implicated a year after the girl, his wife’s niece, was found dead up on a hill several kilometres from her home. Media negativity and the prosecution prompted the couple to barricade themselves against reporters, relying totally on their own and totally-lopsided YouTubers. There have been YouTubers labelling them as fraudulent as well, and both camps have been waging a spectacular and unprecedented war that, however, has escaped national media’s attention.

Donations which were enormous at the beginning have also decreased, but they have enabled Loong Phol and his wife to own a brand-new family van, buy a big plot of land in Sakon Nakhon and ponder sending one of their two children to study in Japan.

October 31 will be highly significant for the mainstream media which played no small part in turning a poor suspect who used blankets as toilet walls into a celebrity. A court dismissal of the case would have justified the initial sympathy and saved a few media personalities’ faces, but a conviction will have an opposite effect.

October 4, 2023: Mass shooting exists everywhere but dangerous impulses can be diluted or cushioned in undivided, peaceful societies. On the other hand, fundamental differences can spawn or amplify such urges.

What happened at Siam Paragon on Tuesday must set alarm bells ringing. While it’s not easy for an ordinary Thai to acquire and hence publicly carry firearm as in the United States (We all know how it’s like over there as a result of that), when it comes to societal divide, Thailand can never boast about peace.

Love heals but hate can push some off the edge. On Tuesday, mental instability and not religious or political beliefs seemed to be the reason. Yet it was unprecedented all the same. And more precedents can come in the future if Thais are not careful.

October 3, 2023: It started off as a mere cracking fixture that would set the sporting tone for the rest of the English Premier League season, but the Tottenham Hotspurs-Liverpool clash on Saturday ended up setting the stage for potentially the most significant review of the technological system that was supposed to help the game.

The disallowed goal of Liverpool’s Luis Diaz, coming after a red card reduced Liverpool to 10 men and as the game remained at 0-0, was the hottest sports story over the past two days. It has exposed flaws in VAR _ Video Assistant Referee _ which actually means a human official aided by flesh slow-motion replays and lines drawn with computerised perspectives and is generally thought of as computer working behind the scenes endorsing or vetoing human referees’ decisions.

Not only technical flaws, some may say, but the possibility of humans bringing corruption into an incorruptible technology that was meant to make the game fairer.

To cut a long story short, human referees in the VAR room and those on the field combined to disallow a totally-legitimate and extremely-significant goal. Miscommunication was cited but a lot of questions have either been answered poorly or remained totally unanswered, and Liverpool have sought the release of the audio clip of the communications between those in the VAR operation room and on the pitch.

Liverpool say they are doing it not just for themselves, but also for the sake of the much-lambasted refereeing. The audio clip, which the referees’ body, the Professional Game Match Official Ltd (PGMOL) reportedly promises to release, can go a long way toward easing corruption doubts although it may not affect a major review of the whole system.

PGMOL earlier issued a statement admitting “a significant human error” in the Spurs-Liverpool game, but costly and eye-catching mistakes that VAR caused or failed to alter have been far too many for comfort, occurring almost on a weekly basis. Luis Diaz’s goal was the last straw that has been amplifying the questions surrounding the integrity of the English Premier League, which many still think is the best football league in the world.

October 2, 2023: Can the biggest political party launch a scrutiny into malpractice of a rich party attempting to swallow up a small one by having the latter’s MPs expelled from their original camp?

The answer is “very unlikely”. After the deputy House speaker saga, that is.

According to a news analysis, Move Forward will find it extremely difficult to do anything if a big, wealthy party pays a poor, tiny one to have the latter’s MPs expelled so they could join it.

Party takeover while Parliament is functioning is legally prohibited, but there are loopholes, it is pointed out. Such loopholes have to do with the MP expulsion, after which elected lawmakers can search for a new party to join.

“If you are rich enough you can control Parliament,” wrote the columnist. Move Forward’s tactical “expulsion” of Padipat Suntiphada was nowhere near that kind of ambition, but it pointed to loopholes that could be exploited.

October 1, 2023: Even if Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol wants to do something, he will have too little time for that. Bad news is that he is not the first seat-warmer for his instant successor at the Police Department. Worst news is that the successor will be the same for the next one in line, and so on.

It has been this way for the Police Department, and some other significant top positions. People are selected to head their organisations only ceremonially or to give a retiring person one last “honour”. It is probably a good payback for a long service and it can even be a good tradition at an organisation with solid integrity and stability.

For an organisation like the police that requires bravery, revolutionism and supreme activeness, it’s a bad practice discouraging creativity, reformist drive and promoting going-with-the-flow attitudes from top to bottom. How many police chiefs Thailand have had over the past few years? Most people can’t even give the names in a correct order.

A lot of things need to be done at the Police Department, but Pol Gen Torsak will be too preoccupied with impending retirement and the government along with the police committee will a few months from now start worrying not about what he plans to do but about how and where to locate a successor.

 

Daily updates of local and global events by Tulsathit Taptim