13 July 2024

December 31, 2023: Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and other late renowned theorists of everything would have to rewrite what they discovered, or assumed as facts, or used as bases for their famous works, thanks to a space telescope that is doing its job innocently yet tenaciously far far away.

2023 is a year when scientists who are still alive started to tear apart much of what they think they know about cosmology and human life or even the existence of extraterrestrial beings. Nobody knows what 2024 holds, because the James Webb Space Telescope will keep sending findings that are upending knowledge about the universe, starting with its origin, age and how many things like stars, planets, black holes and galaxies have been born.

How significant are the findings so far? To put it bluntly, they have told us that we are nursery school kids still believing in Santa Claus when it comes to cosmology.

What’s the problem with that? Cosmological knowledge dictates our lives more than we know it. Religion, ideology, physics teachings, harnessing of energy, global politics and many other things all have to do with our presumed understanding of how the universe functions. When what we assume to be facts stop being so, people will start questioning everything including “reality”.

Happy New (exciting) Year.

December 30, 2023: His recent resignation from the Democrat Party has triggered all kinds of speculation, but former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has reportedly told someone very close to him that he has been too attached to Thailand’s oldest political camp to found a new one.

Former Democrat MP Thepthai Senpong, whose political career was seriously hampered by courts’ rulings finding him guilty of electoral irregularities, said he just met Abhisit for a year-end get-together, in which the latter ruled out setting up a new political party.

In an online post, Thepthai wrote that Abhisit is and will remain “100% politically independent.” He said Abhisit was still “emotionally attached” to the Democrat Party, which the former prime minister adored as a kid and backed him to the summit of his political career.

“They elected him party leader for five consecutive times and there is no way there will be another way,” said Thepthai. “He still loves and cares about the Democrat Party, so much so that he does not rule out coming back to it one day.”

December 29, 2023: A mysterious YouTube blackout is impacting Loong Phol’s phenomenal empire, overwhelmed by rival content on the mainstream and social media which have made a dramatic U-turn. But there are old video clips that are harder to delete than the others.

Following is a tiny compilation of what were posted on YouTube when his popularity, boosted by the mainstream and social media, was at its peak, showing the powers of the content makers.

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fI70FpfPAoQ

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Iw9wuQJ_eY

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHDrbvnQ5C0

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqnLL8EEe-s&t=38s

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7cLTtlqPbo

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8-AxdYO744

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBzn8Fn0Tcs

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrkrd2GGBqA

 

Important note: Clips are getting deleted like crazy, so if you want to watch them, click now.

 

December 28, 2023: Thais will absolutely be asked “Should the Constitution be amended?” in a referendum early next year in a prelude to a major ideological showdown.

The government has all but confirmed that the question will be asked, with an addition that chapter 1 and chapter 2 (which have to do with national political culture and characteristics) will not be touched. It’s the addition that is the contentious point at the moment, but the administration has insisted that it wanted charter amendment and the starting point _ the public referendum _ to be a peaceful democratic exercise, not a potentially-explosive ideological showdown.

Remarkably, Deputy Prime Minister Phumtham Wechayachai of the Pheu Thai Party has said that constitutional pushes in the social media were not “always consistent” with what the general Thai public want. It is better for the referendum question to be formulated in a way that is not causing social clashes, he pointed out.

He said the question will need Cabinet approval, and if things go as planned the first referendum will take place early next year. A “Yes” will trigger amendment process that will take months, and then another referendum shall be required to see if Thais agree with the changes.

In the second referendum, it is reported that at least half of eligible voters must exercise their rights and at least half of those who exercise their rights must approve the changes to make them effective.

December 27, 2023: Mocking political groups and personalities by inventing new nicknames for them is much-anticipated year-end activity of Government House and Parliament journalists, but the latter camp looks like suffering from a hangover.

While Government House reporters have pulled no punches, their Parliament counterparts decided to give the new Move Forward leader, Chaithawat Tulathon, a break, saying that no nickname shall be given because he has only just begun. The “Rivals of the Year” category has also been skipped, because “much of this year has been spent on selecting the prime minister.” There is no “Best parliamentary figure” either.

Pita Limjaroenrat is the “fallen star”, while the entire Parliament is called a “theatre of dramatic deceptions”. Both nicknames, while catchy, were in fact stating the obvious.

Most creative, it seems, is the nickname for House Speaker Wan Muhamad Noor Matha. Parliament reporters call him “Wan Noor-minee”.

December 26, 2023: Of all satirical nicknames of political groups and personalities, an annual year-end contribution of Government House reporters, what the coalition administration is called stands out.

The Government House reporters nicknamed the government “Kangsom Plak Ruam”.

The nickname requires some explanation. “Kaengsom Pakruam” is the name of a household reddish spicy-and-sour soup in which various types of vegetable are put. You may put just one particular “Pak” or vegetable in the “Kangsom” and call it Kangsom so and so. For example, you can name your dish Kangsom Pakkadkhao (Chinese cabbage).

Or you may put various “Pak” in it and call it “Kaengsom Pakruam” (meaning Kaengsom with many vegetables).

The Government House reporters wanted “Kangsom” to imply “Klaeng Som”. Klaeng Som means to “bully the orange”. Everyone knows the Orange means Move Forward and its supporters.

“Plak” means to push. It’s a close word to “Pak” (vegetable).

Now you know what Kaengsom Plak Ruam implies. It suggests that this government was born out of bullying of the Orange, a move that pushed various parties to come together.

December 25, 2023: “Sleep tight, my little girl, and don’t hold any grudge ever. I will take care of everything.” That videotaped statement was what Savitree Wongsricha said in front of a tiny pagoda-shaped urn in which her three-year-old daughter’s ashes were kept.

Interpretation: Keep your soul pure. Revenge is my business.

In Buddhism, one of the worst things to do is continuing to carry grudge or worries after one’s death. Either into the next life or in between worlds.

And one of the greatest sacrifices is taking over whatever bad feelings of somebody else.

As her sympathisers keep asking the spirit of Nong Chompoo, who died under mysterious circumstances in 2020, to “help your mother”, Savitree has been doing the exact opposite. She doesn’t want Nong Chompoo to get involved in any way. She wants her daughter’s soul to be as clean as possible regardless of how “dirtier” her own soul would become as a result.

Like they say, God can’t be everywhere, and that’s why he created mothers.

December 24, 2023: The biggest NIDA poll surprise is the finding of how far Paetongtarn Shinawatra has dropped down the popularity table.

Pita Limjaroenrat and his Move Forward Party standing out as the most popular politician and political party respectively was largely expected. And Srettha Thavisin coming second as the most preferred choice of prime minister is not quite jaw-dropping either, given his current status.

The most startling finding has to do with Paetongtarn, who was ranked a comfortable first before the May 14 election. Now she has just 5.75% support, compared with Pita’s 39.40% and Srettha’s 22.35%. Is her father responsible for the fall? Quite likely.

What looks certain is that the poll, conducted between December 13-December 18 covering around 2,000 respondents, shows Pheu Thai is having a big problem on its hands.

December 23, 2023: Three years ago, Chaiyaphol Wipa was a beloved star of the mainstream media and social media. It’s the extreme opposite today.

On Wednesday, he was convicted of manslaughter in connection with the mysterious death of “Nong Chompoo” in Mukdahan in 2020 and sentenced to 20 years in jail. He was granted bail and the case certainly will last at least two more years and end at the Supreme Court.

However, after Wednesday’s Mukdahan Criminal Court verdict, the mainstream media and social media have been treating Chaiyaphol, aka Loong Phol, differently. Compared to when he was suspected by Nong Chompoo’s family, then officially implicated by the police, and then arraigned on charges of attempted murder, today’s news reports and online comments look like they are from another planet.

The media painted him as a scapegoat back then, triggering massive donations and showering him with cash said to be in the millions. There was criticism about the way he was treated, but it was drowned out by sympathy. Now, all of his dubious acts in the wake of the girl’s death are being dug up by major outlets and viewers’ comments are overwhelmingly in favour of the provincial court’s ruling.

He has managed to maintain some loyal support but his fan club is apparently dwindling, and even the most diehard supporters agree that mainstream media and social media presence of Loong Phol can make things worse. From a man who could draw millions of views on YouTube for simply eating rice with omelette and caused rock-star screams at concerts, he will likely disappear from online content that his camp creates.

Nong Chompoo’s family wants him to be punished for murder, not manslaughter, and can appeal the provincial court’s ruling. Loong Phol’s lawyers are also planning to appeal, saying he had nothing to do with the girl’s disappearance and death.

(The provincial court ruled that he was the one who took the girl away on the day she disappeared, leading to her death, but prosecutors’ murder charges did not prevail. The prosecutors said Loong Phol must have known full well that abandoning a child that young and small would cause the youngster to die. Why the girl was taken in the first place remains a mystery, with speculations ranging from family jealousy to superstitious practices to a minor prank gone horribly wrong. The girl’s naked body was found high up on a mountain three days after she disappeared but there was no injury or sign of any assault, although few strands of cut hair believed to be hers were found both at the scene and inside his car.)

December 22, 2023: Payap Panket, a key Pheu Thai figure who has been involved in some hardcore political activities, has admitted that there have been both open and covert hostilities revolving around Thaksin Shinawatra, but claimed the issue cannot destabilise Srettha Thavisin’s premiership.

He said Srettha still gets full backing as the coalition government leader, and critics, either they are those who are on the government side but are wanting more, or they are now wanting to become a new government, should stop politicizing the current treatment of Thaksin.

“Day dreaming must stop,” he said. “The government stability is still solid and there’s won’t be any change to the Cabinet line-up anytime soon. Let the issue be handled by the Corrections Department in accordance with principles of human rights.”

December 21, 2023: Some people are getting a taste of their own medicine, and this experience should be part of a global soul-searching.

Did Donald Trump break the laws and should be disqualified from politics? If the answer is “Yes”, then Thaksin Shinawatra had not been treated unfairly when court rulings found him to have violated key principles of the Thai political system years ago. Furthermore, Thaksin was judged when his political camp was in power, under checks and balances prescribed by a much-lauded “charter of the people.”

If the answer is “No”, then the same kind of “political persecution” is not limited to a “third world country” like Thailand, but also exists in the most sophisticated “model of democracy” like America.

That is for Democratic Americans. They can’t root for the courts and condemn what happened to Thaksin or even Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit at the same time.

As for Republican Americans, if Trump should fight legal persecution against all odds, then Thaksin is heroic for his successful attempt so far to stay out of jail. They can’t root for Trump but in the same breath find the ongoing Thaksin affair farcical.

December 20, 2023: Colorado’s Supreme Court has ruled that Donald Trump cannot run for president next year in the state, pushing the very heated American politics toward the boiling point.

The court, citing a constitutional insurrection clause, ruled 4-3 that Trump was not an eligible candidate because he had played a big role in the US Capitol riot nearly three years ago. This ruling cannot stop Trump running in the other states and his campaign immediately vowed to appeal to the US Supreme Court against the “completely flawed” decision.

The Colorado ruling in fact had to do with the Republicans’ primary on March 5, when Republican voters in the largely Democratic state will choose their preferred candidate for president. But it will absolutely affect the presidential election in the state and may have great ramifications beyond Colorado’s borders.

Meanwhile, a UN Security Council vote on a new resolution calling for a surge in humanitarian aid and an urgent halt to the Israel-Hamas could be taking place in hours after a fresh delay.

The council had scheduled a vote as early as Monday, but it was postponed because of disagreement over, believe it or not, the term “Cessation of hostilities” and proposed replacement “Suspension of hostilities”. That was apparently a bigger deal than innocent women and children getting killed during the delay.

It was reported that disagreed language was being watered down and could be further weakened to satisfy Washington.

“The key sticking point of course we believe is the ‘cessation of hostilities’,” said Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from the UN in New York.

They’d better hope for a compromise, said Amnesty International’s Secretary-General Agnes Callamard, who reportedly pointed out on X: “Every hour, every day that passes – civilians in Gaza are dying.”

Divisions within the US administration have been reportedly growing with some officials saying the US is either misunderstanding or underestimating the scale of global disillusionment over US perceived hypocrisy in calling out Russian war crimes, but bending over backwards to justify the large-scale killings of Palestinians in Gaza.

It’s not just America, though. Europe is losing moral ground with the rest of the world as a result of its stance on Gaza, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has admitted.

UN officials have expressed anger and disbelief, especially about the situation in Gaza hospitals. where children recovering from amputations are being killed. “I’m furious that children who are recovering from amputations in hospitals are then killed in those hospitals,” said James Elder, a spokesperson for the UN children’s agency, was quoted as saying.

December 19, 2023: Politicians, monks, newscasters, academics, lawyers, social media users and big celebrities are whipping up a big storm that, to be fair, is a good distraction from Gaza and Thaksin Shinawatra.

Critics of the child “prophet” doubt the parents and others around him including those organising tours for purported in-depth learning of “religious” teachings and meditation techniques that allegedly could link your mind with others’. They claim the following is growing fast and will become a huge social problem if it is not nipped in the bud.

Proponents say the eight-year-old boy truly has wisdom far beyond his age and there is nothing wrong with willing donations or paying for a package tour to seek new knowledge. It’s the second argument that makes the authorities hesitate over taking harsh action.

Minister of Social Development and Human Security Varawut Silpa-archa said today his agency was waiting for police reports on whether the parents were illegally exploiting the child. Initial information showed that the boy was a bright kid who has normal relationships with friends at school, he said. The parents also seem to take care of the boy well, he added.

Religions and cultist beliefs more or less have to do with donations and human rights, and Thailand is no stranger to dilemmas they create. While this is a new social controversy with a tendency to drastically expand, it is representing same-old issues that can be dated back hundreds or even thousands of years.

The critics are right about one thing. Issues like this need to be addressed when they are still manageable. Controversial sects with massive followings are always difficult to deal with, and politics often gets in the way.

December 18, 2023: Democracy has to transcend borders, and righteousness shall never be monopolised by any country, so the potential new UN Security Council vote on Gaza ceasefire can be super crucial.

The United States was the only country to vote against the previous Security Council ceasefire resolution, and that was followed by an overwhelming UN General Assembly vote for a meaningful pause in the fighting. The number of countries participating in the General Assembly vote was in fact a democratic exercise while the Security Council vote was anything but.

For all the preaching about democracy and for all criticism against governing elite failing to heed what the majority wants, what America does this time will go a long way toward defining democracy in this era.

The UN Security Council could vote as early as in the next few hours to demand that Israel and Hamas allow aid access via land, sea and air routes – and enable neutral UN monitoring of the humanitarian assistance delivered.

Diplomats was quoted by Reuters as saying the fate of the draft Security Council resolution would hinge on final negotiations between Israel ally and council veto power, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates, which has drafted the text.

December 17, 2023: Imagine it was a bigger group of hostages running toward Israeli troops on Friday.

Three hostages killed mistakenly by the soldiers who had been supposed to help them is tragic, but the military “rescue” mission had that coming. Initial details on how the three were dressed or whether they were emerging shirtless from a building waving a white cloth or not could not be immediately confirmed. Anyway, even people with limited battlefield knowledge must have thought about dressing the hostages like them to confuse the enemy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to associate rescuing the hostages with the cruel bombings and shootings that have killed countless innocent Gaza citizens. But, to be fair to the troops who fired at the ill-fated captives, the scene is not a standalone building or isolated underground hideout where “rescuers” can sneak in and out and achieve a Hollywood-style success.

The soldiers had to operate among explosions, flying bullets and war debris, fighting enemies famous for suicide acts like attaching bombs to their bodies. Even with a while flag, nobody can really trust anybody.

Netanyahu must consider that while insisting that there would be no let-up in the Israeli operations. “Military pressure is necessary both for the return of the hostages and for victory. Without military pressure… we have nothing,” he was quoted by BBC as saying.

December 16, 2023: The Kamnan Nok infamy is undoubtedly the most shameful incident during the first three months of the Pheu Thai-led government.

With critics marking the government’s first 100 days with positives and negatives, the biggest shame that took place under its nose is the Kamnan Nok incident which showcased a lot of things that are wrong with the Thai society, justice system and business circles.

The fatal shooting that shocked the entire nation occurred on September 6. On November 14, Crime Suppression investigators agreed that the alleged shooter and the kamnan should both be prosecuted. Six police officers who allegedly helped Kamnan Nok escape from the crime scene would also face prosecution, along with 15 other policemen attending the party. The latter group is accused of malfeasance.

With digital wallet seemingly more political than economic as of now, and charter amendment purely political, how the Srettha administration handles the biggest shame of its first 100 days affecting the general Thai public will be closely watched. People monitoring the Kamnan Nok case may be more able to understand why bridges collapse, pubs violate closing times, businesses need to build “connections” to get ahead of competitors and narcotic drugs in some places are sold near schools like candies.

December 15, 2023: In a speech designed to lure Japan’s investment, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin painted Thailand as an up-and-coming economic fledgling star eager for fresh challenges, not one lying in a coma needing to borrow Bt500 billion to get out of stagnation.

In Japan, he told the Thai-Japanese Investment Forum that brought together hundreds of participants that Thailand’s infrastructure was improving all the time, and so were bureaucratic support for investors and international trade dynamics, especially with a great friends from Japan, old and new alike.

He said the Thai government was strengthening the “digital” economy, embracing the “green” economy, fully supporting the “startup” economy and preparing everyone for the “AI” economy.

He needs two speeches _ one to lure foreign investors and one to convince Thais that the Thai economy is so sick that the government has to borrow Bt500 billion _ critics had said. Today underlined the criticism.

December 14, 2023: “We now have enough votes” may sound like a rejection, but if the rest of what he said is added, the prime minister may be just keeping his options open.

A change of Democrat leadership has intensified speculation that Thailand’s oldest party might ditch Move Forward and join the Srettha bandwagon in the future, and the new Democrat boss, Chalermchai Srion has not banged the table and said “No” to the possibility.

Ambiguity is also Srettha Thavisin’s strategy. Some media outlets are saying he has snubbed the Democrats but others are not ruling out a formerly-unthinkable Pheu Thai-Democrat alliance.

“I’m not intervening in other parties’ business,” Srettha said. “Now we have 314 votes which are enough. What we (Pheu Thai) need to do is show respect for the coalition partners as well as for the Democrats themselves. It’s their internal affair. Moreover, Chalermchai has just begun his life at the helm. We must let him work and manage the party.”

If Chalermchai had sounded like a famous footballer responding to rumours that he is leaving his club, Srettha is sounding like a big club responding to rumours that it is wooing a famous footballer.

December 13, 2023: As if it mattered, the UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution demanding “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza. There were more votes supporting the resolution than one earlier this year calling for an end to the Ukraine war (which the United States opposes, of course).

US President Joe Biden, meanwhile, has warned Israel that it is starting to lose global support over its “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza. But in the same breath, he virtually said “Don’t worry. We still stand by you.”

The US had days ago vetoed a UN Security Council’s Gaza ceasefire resolution that would have carried more teeth. The General Assembly vote was backed by 153 nations _ a lot more democratic than the council’s vote _ but it’s non-binding.

Here’s Biden’s warning that critics of Israel may deem a slap on the wrist or a sweet coated with something bitter: “Israel’s security can rest on the United States, but right now it has more than the United States. It has the European Union, it has Europe, it has most of the world,” he told donors to his 2024 re-election campaign in Washington. … But they’re starting to lose that support by indiscriminate bombing that takes place.”

He reiterated that there was “no question about the need to take on Hamas” and Israel had “every right” to do so.

December 12, 2023: Jurin Lasanawisit is hitting the government harder on Thaksin Shinawatra than the whole Move Forward Party is, and that is just the beginning of an extremely-awkward relationship between the two opposition camps.

The former Democrat leader and currently the party’s party-list MP does not like changing imprisonment rules of the Corrections Department, changes that he suggested might benefit “prisoners from heaven”. Jurin said today if Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin does not do anything about sufferings of ordinary people soon, “this government will be considered a servant of individuals, not the Thai citizens.”

Thanathorn Juangroonruangkit has admitted to meeting Thaksin before the latter returned from exile. Although Thanathorn denied that a possible Move Forward-Pheu Thai continued alliance was discussed to pave the way for a smooth formation of a government, that admission greatly complicated Move Forward’s public handling of the Thaksin issue, and that will allow the Democrats to take a lead on a major political controversy.

Thanathorn’s admission that Move Forward and Pheu Thai were actually “good friends” who should have worked together rather than on opposite sides is not good for Move Forward as an opposition party. On the other hand, this benefits the Democrats for obvious reasons.

Both Move Forward and the Democrats will also compete for Bangkok votes in the future, and that race will sow seeds for possible conflicts. It happened between Move Forward and Pheu Thai in the last election.

Then there are issues of Article 112 and some controversial electoral promises of Pheu Thai that Move Forward was silent about during the election campaign.

More problems are in store. The Democrats are being called a “spare”, due to suspicion that they could make a U-turn and join the other side in the future. This means the two opposition parties cannot really see eye to eye with each other.

Thai politicians are sleeping with the enemy all over the landscape.

December 11, 2023: Chuan Leepai won’t stop Democrat haemorrhage but he is like that alien object which, if pulled out of a main artery, will cause the patient to bleed to death.

Abhisit Vejjajiva is leading another wave of an exodus out of Thailand’s oldest political party, but Chuan said he owed a big debt of gratitude to the camp.

Former party leader Chuan, also an ex-prime minister, has suggested he is aware that the Democrat Party is going fast from being a big driving force of Thai politics to becoming a “spare” which may not even be necessary if it keeps shrinking. But he will stay put, and the party must feel grateful for that, because the current commotion will sound merely like a school playground noise if he won’t.

December 10, 2023: New Democrat leader Chalermchai Srion was vague about the party’s future, and that seems to only mean one thing.

What he said after being elected the new head of Thailand’s oldest political party, that the Democrats “will do our best for the opposition but nobody knows what the future holds”, is a big sign that he will be keeping his options open if there are conflicts with Move Forward and frenemies come knocking.

It’s a textbook response when a future football star has to react to rumours that he is leaving his “small” club for a bigger one.

If fact, the Democrats don’t need to bother about finding a good excuse if they want to switch side.

Chalermchai is just reacting to a speculation, of course, but that speculation has nonetheless been amplified by the actions of Abhisit Vejjajiva on the day the new leader took the helm.

December 9, 2023: That the United States is the only nation to vote against a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate Gaza ceasefire should not make any jaw drop.

Thirteen countries were in favour of the resolution while the United States vetoed and the UK abstained. At least 97 other countries joined in the effort, co-sponsoring the United Arab Emirates-drafted bill.

UN chief Antonio Guterres on Friday called the current state of affairs a threat to international peace and security, saying, as quoted by CNN, that “we are at a breaking point”.

Whether the veto is surprising or has been expected, it’s so much for democracy all the same.

December 8, 2023: It’s one thing to fail to stop the Ukraine war, and it’s absolutely another to be unable to do anything about the humanitarian crisis mushrooming in full glare in Gaza.

The United Nations is trying, but Israel is barely listening. If this goes on, any government else can do the same and point at Israel. “We are dealing with our own problems, so get lost” is what countries cracking down without mercy on rebellious ethnic groups will virtually say to the world body.

This is not to say there are no sufferings of the innocent in Ukraine. This is to underline the fact that the world assembly has been unable to stop America from invading Iraq in spite of an overwhelming global opposition expressed in various forms through the United Nations, or intervene in several less-known wars, or make Russia retreat from Ukraine, or do anything significant about the Gaza situation where even the United States is apparently admitting that the line between self-defence and blatant cruelty is getting blurred.

The UN security council is now under immense pressure from Secretary-General António Guterres to issue a resolution on an immediate ceasefire. But we know the council is more about superpowers’ face saving than humanitarianism. And whether Israel would comply is a big question.

In a letter to the council on Wednesday, Guterres took the extraordinary step of invoking the UN charter’s Article 99, which empowers him to bring to the attention of the council “any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”, according to The Guardian.

Nobody knows what happens next. No one in his role had done this in decades. The words “War crimes” have been uttered by the Muslim world, in limited circles as of now but they could get a lot louder.

Guterres wrote: “Amid constant bombardment by the Israel Defense Forces, and without shelter or the essentials to survive, I expect public order to completely break down soon due to the desperate conditions, rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible.”

December 7, 2023: Everyone is or has been “the new generation” at one point, so it’s important for Thais to update, not fight, one another, said the new leader of the ruling party.

Paetongtarn Shinawatra also insisted that her family never wants to control Pheu Thai, a statement that a lot of people will disagree. In addition, she made the issue of amnesty more interesting.

The statements on the new generation and party leadership were made at a party seminar in Khao Yai reviewing what Pheu Thai did right and what went wrong in the last election. She said she would like to quote His Majesty the King as saying to foreign dignitaries in November that “Everyone here including myself used to be a new generation.”

“It’s a short sentence but is very profound,” Paetongtarn told party members. “It tells us that the party’s old people were its new generation before. The challenge is how everybody can co-exist for Pheu Thai’s sake.”

She said she was all for generations “updating” one another on new concepts and new technologies and “linking” their cultures.

On party “ownership”, she said her family only led but did not own Pheu Thai, and supporting teams were equally important, without whom the party is nothing.

Paetongtarn also gave a quick interview on the amnesty. She said the party’s own ideas were “very good” and would be revised and improved. She seemed to be referring to the amnesty agenda that led to mass protests and eventual downfall of the Yingluck government.

December 6, 2023: People thought the 2019 election was the rock bottom of Thailand’s oldest political party. Then May 14, 2023 happened and, again, it was believed there was no way to go but up from the 25-seat humiliation. With an upcoming leadership election getting little public attention and the camp sitting alongside Move Forward on the opposition bench, the Democrats must be dreading the time when Thais vote in the future.

Thai politics nowadays is a “One lane or the other” driving exercise. Simply put, you can’t straddle ideological lanes. That Pheu Thai is doing so does not mean the Democrats should do the same. Firstly, Pheu Thai is guaranteed nothing. Secondly, Pheu Thai has a far-bigger power base. It won almost 11 million popular votes on May 14, compared with fewer than a million votes for the Democrats. In other words, Pheu Thai can bear big damage but the Democrats can’t.

Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation are also straddling lanes. But they can point at the fact that they have had no choice. The Democrats are being perceived as too stubborn and rigid when compared with them, but too soft when compared with Move Forward.

Further more, Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation are new and have a feel of “special task force” about them. They can transform themselves or even be taken over. They are enjoying the flexibility that the Democrats don’t have.

Candidates for the upcoming Democrat leadership election this weekend are not familiar big guns as in the past. The randomness of leadership used to be the party’s strong point, blocking or resisting the potentially-unhealthy trend of political dynasty and money politics, but the party’s continued plunge into oblivion could make that insignificant.

That Watanya Bunnag (famously-known as Madam Dear) is entering the leadership race underlines the past “strength”, which was that the Democrat Party belonged to nobody in particular. If elected (she has to face a strong competitor in Narapat Kaewthong, though, and that is her best-case scenario because some popular old-guard names have been mentioned and might spring a last-minute surprise), the unenviable task would be to revitalise that unique quality.

December 5, 2023: Imagine a Thai government that brings together Move Forward, Pheu Thai, Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation and is backed by the Senate and most of the activists and everyone is friendly toward one another. That could be the new management team of Football Association of Thailand as showcased by Nualphan Lamsam over the weekend.

People call it a team of Avengers. It’s powerful. It’s capable, apparently. Most importantly, bad blood or troublesome polarity is being dealt with. Top Thai Premier League clubs like Muangthong United and Buriram United who usually are top rivals on and off the pitch have their most senior executives in her team. In fact, most big clubs are represented at high levels one way or another. Respected former striker and currently well-respected football analyst Piyapong Pue-on, once a candidate for the FAT presidency himself, is in the team.

Supporters say she has the mediate power to overcome a serious obstacle facing Thai football, the clashing interests between clubs and country. Full support of clubs should also make youth development faster and more efficient.

“For most of the Thai history, the running of our football has been marked by polarised rivalry,” said Piyapong in his YouTube channel. That unhealthy trend would change, he hoped.

Nualphan, or “Madam Pang”, would make history as the first female FAT president if elected. Her competitor is Pauline Ngampring, one of the most famous transgender politicians who has impressive knowledge of, and involvement in, Thai football. Nualphan is the hot favourite for the FAT election in early February, though, not least because support from Thai Premier League clubs is crucial.

There have been whispers about “Thanos” snapping his fingers and dooming her “Avengers”, however. Thai football has reached that peculiar stage where losing to Asean neighbours is all but unacceptable while winning against Asia’s superpowers like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea are all but impossible.

Matches against both groups have often been used to judge FAT. Previous presidents saw how honeymoons could turn swiftly stormy following one infavourable result or one poor performance of the national team. Another thing is that even presidents less popular than her were constantly under the microscope.

December 4, 2023: Corruption is Thailand’s “soft power”, with its great magnetic pull drawing unscrupulous foreigners to the country, according to a politician whose remarks often divided opinions and were often ridiculed.

One can hardly argue with Move Forward MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn when he said foreign fraudsters or racketeers must have loved the Thai “reputation” that criminals could operate “grey businesses” here and bribe their way out of trouble easily.

“We should advertise that if you have a grey business, you should come to Thailand,” he tweeted sarcastically, in response to the Pheu Thai-led government’s effort to promote the country’s “soft power.”

Such notoriety is prevalent but like an elephant in the living room when the powers-that-be are concerned, Wiroj said. He warned that it is having more pulling power than “Moo Gata” (famous self-cooking pork barbecue available at restaurants offering the menu.)

“Corruption, grey businesses and cross-continent mafia (hideouts) are what make (many) people think of Thailand,” he said. “If this is not our soft power, I don’t know what is. For example, many foreigners have been made to believe that anyone wanting to buy child prostitution will have to come here.”

December 3, 2023: The end will justify the means, insists Varawut Silpa-archa, the minister of social development and human security, regarding the government’s strong soft power push.

He suggested that Thailand’s soft power could supplement or even transcend conventional economic norms relying primarily on hard power and appeal to 8 billion people regardless of hard power-based dynamics at play now.

“It’s only just begun at our ministry, but the issue is being taken care of by efficient human resources who know what to do, where to focus and when,” he said. “Thailand has so many good things that can attract 8 billion people around the world thus making our economy strong. There has been criticism, of course, but I would like to urge everyone to take it easy and wait and see. The final results will deal with the negativity.”

But he along with the rest of the Srettha administration and the entire Pheu Thai Party have a serious question to answer.

How should digital wallet be categorised? Only hypocrites can trumpet soft power as an economic way out (In Varawut’s own words it would appeal to the whole world and thus strengthen the Thai economy), while planning to borrow Bt500 billion to fund an agenda that seems to associate more with hard power, right?

One sensible excuse is that digital wallet itself is also soft power, yet digital wallet has breached several soft power principles. To start with, soft power refers to the ability to survive, progress, and succeed through local wisdom, culture, expertise and creativity. Main criticism of digital wallet is that it would only help mainstream business entrepreneurs and only encourage flash-in-the-pan spending of those receiving “coupons” that could buy only certain products at government-designated shops within government-designated radiuses and government-designated deadlines.

December 2, 2023: Festivals are charming because they end shortly. Everlasting parties are even associated with the falls of key empires.

It is understandable to promote Songkran as Thailand’s “soft power”, but it can be less so to encourage Thais and foreign tourists to splash water for the entire month of April.

The Pheu Thai Party under Paetongtarn Shinawatra wants to lengthen Songkran as part of an ambitious agenda to harden the country’s “soft power”. In fact, provinces have been told to pick different dates for celebrations so when Songkran ends in one place you can still have fun at another, or if tourists are preoccupied on the original Songkran holidays, they can still come to Thailand if they know where to go.

There are some potential drawbacks to think about. Water conservers would not love the idea to begin with, and business entrepreneurs probably a lot more so.

But perhaps a bigger problem is that the idea can have an opposite effect. There is a reason why the Olympics and World Cup take place every four years and the tournaments last just short periods of time. The sports events would lose its values if they happen too often or go on too long.

There is no need to say that Songkran is the same.

December 1, 2023: News reports say Thailand has approved Bt5.1 billion to promote its “soft power”. What conclusion can we draw from this?

The simplest answer is that lots of state money, which forms the crux of “hard power”, are still required to promote something it has no business promoting.

Wikipedia defines “soft power” as the following: “Soft power contrasts with “hard power” (which is) the use of coercion and payment. Soft power can be wielded not just by states but also by (other) actors in international politics, such as NGOs or international institutions. … A country’s soft power rests on three resources: “Its culture (in places where it is attractive to others), its political values (when it lives up to them at home and abroad), and its foreign policies (when others see them as legitimate and having moral authority.”

How much of the above is violated by the fact that a politicians-led state spending of up to Bt5.1 billion is needed to promote Thailand’s “soft power”?

 

 

Daily update of local and international events by Tulsathit Taptim