As cremations take place everywhere in India, deaths rise in Brazil, too

File photo of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

April 30, 2021: Brazil has surpassed 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, and more Brazilians have died in the first four months of this year than in the entire 2020.

As bodies are piling up so fast in India that the ability to even cremate them properly is being seriously challenged, Brazilians have seen their deadliest month of the pandemic as well. The Brazilian death toll is topped only by that of the US which is seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

A combination of factors has contributed to the Brazilian woes. The country’s public health system is not strong compared with those in many hard-hit nations; a sluggish vaccine rollout has been compounded by vaccine shortage that has prevented many from getting the crucial second dose; a more contagious variant is suspected; and many people are resisting social distancing with restrictions relaxed in many towns and cities, cheered on by President Jair Bolsonaro.

Meanwhile, Thailand has said a sad goodbye to one of the funniest, most talented and most-loved actors/comedians of this era, famously known by the name of Kom Chuanchuen. Arkom Preedakul, his real name, has succumbed to COVID-19 at the age of 63.

April 29, 2021: The plot is thickening. Just as the US president singles out Capitol Hill “insurrection” as one of the worst national incidents since the Civil War, the home of a “9/11 hero” who became Donald Trump’s top lawyer has been searched by the FBI.

Here are the Joe Biden soundbites: “The insurrection was an existential crisis, a test of whether our democracy could survive … ” “The struggle is far from over.”

“It’s legal thuggery,” Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer said in response to the raid on his boss’ home. “This is totally unnecessary.”

Giuliani, while a New York City mayor, was considered a 9/11 hero, but national admiration turned into divisive political bitterness when his allegiance to Trump became clear. The Democrats thought Giuliani played a big role when Trump’s government allegedly sought to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden, who was then a presidential candidate, and Biden’s son over business dealings.

Now, the FBI raid was conducted on suspicion that Giuliani was dealing illegally with Ukranian authorities. Giuliani had downplayed charges against him, calling them “political persecution.”

April 28, 2021: Unreal as it already is, the reality of the nightmarish situation in India might be a lost worse than what the official figures suggest, many experts have warned.

According to CNN, quoting senior health officials, the real infection number could be as high as 30 times the official report, meaning half a billion cases is a possibility. One director of a health center in New Delhi said few families have been spared a COVID-19 death. “There is one missing person in every family that I could think of,” he was quoted as saying.

Still-limited testing capacities, numerous and quick funerals, and the fact that many deaths were not registered at overwhelmed hospitals or by overworking doctors means undercounting on a grand scale, the experts said.

Even in normal times, only 86% of deaths were registered in government systems. Officially, India has just surpassed 200,000 COVID-19 deaths.

April 27, 2021: Densely-populated manners of Indian communities along with complacency remain the key factors in the eyes of scientists looking at the COVID-19 nightmare in India, despite the existence of a specific variant.

The B.1.617 variant may not be as easily transmissible as some of its peers, or so the experts believe. The scientists take into account religious lifestyle and political situations, both of which still led to mass gatherings regularly. The study of the new variant, however, is going on intensely as India struggles with a daily infection rate that might break the 400,000 ceiling in the next few days.

The experts caution against a conclusion, widespread on the social media, that the B.1.617 is largely to blame. One reason they cite is the discovery of the variant in England where infections and deaths have dropped remarkably. Another reason is more scientifically complicated: India is not vaccinating enough people to put pressure on the coronavirus to mutate into a sneakier and more effective one.

April 26, 2021: Countless twitter users in India have been outraged at their government’s attempts to remove posts critical of state management of COVID-19, as politics is combined with reasonable scare and massive panic to add woes to the teetering nation.

A Twitter spokesperson was quoted by the BBC as confirming the social media giant had blocked some material from being viewed in India, which is facing the biggest surge in cases since the global pandemic began, with many of hospitals facing an oxygen shortage and countries like China, the United States and England looking into emergency assistance.

One Twitter user accused the government of “finding it easier to take down tweets than ensure oxygen supplies”.

Twitter stopped short of saying which content was taken down, but it was understood that the crackdown included posts saying the government was responsible for deaths.

April 25, 2021: The numbers are growing about Thais feeling uncertain about the country’s COVID-19 future, with the latest Suan Dusit Poll all but confirming what Super Poll has found out.

Suan Dusit Poll surveyed 2,082 Thais when infection and death figures were rising after Songkran, but before the latest, scary jumps over the past two days. It has found out that over 39 % thought the government would finally be able to control it, 35.7% were unsure, and about 25 % did not think the government would ride out the brewing crisis. The percentages are quite close, with the “unsure” category looking set to swing either side next time.

Almost the same percentage as Super Poll’s, or about 68 %, were feeling more scared than last year. Just over 50 % said they thought it would take more than three months to bring the situation under control.

April 24, 2021: Way more than half of Thais are really scared of COVID-19 now, probably outnumbering people who were fearful last year when the global pandemic began, and are blaming corruption, complacency and politics for the worrisome situation, according to an opinion poll.

A Super Poll survey of 1,011 Thais over the past few days found that more than 68 % were “very” scared. More than 27 % said they were “fairly scared” whereas the rest were either “scared a little” or “not scared at all.”

The survey was conducted before today’s worsening infections numbers became known.

More than 97 % believe Thailand is dealing with more dangerous and more easily-transmissible variants. Just more than 90 % also blamed public complacency, government negligence and government corruption. Almost 96 % said Thailand dodged the bullet last year thanks to little politicisation of the pandemic.
“Thai people are confused and very scared at the moment,” said Super Poll director Noppadon Kannika.
April 23, 2021: First and foremost, vaccination is very important even if infection and death rates are low. Secondly, and almost as crucial, don’t drop your guards even if you feel so safe that it looks like COVID-19 is in a parallel universe. Thirdly, politics is bad when the coronavirus is concerned.

Those are biggest lessons from India, whose infection rate is currently a hair-raiser despite the fact that the populous country was all but jubilant just weeks ago, thinking it was getting out of the woods.

Since a peak of more than 93,000 cases per day on average in mid-September, infections had steadily declined in India. By mid-February, India was having an average of 11,000 cases a day. Now, the government would be glad if it fell below 250,000, oxygen is running out, and deaths are mounting so much that quick and frequent funerals can even distort the death toll, making it look smaller than it actually is.

The coronavirus, as it has shown time and again, takes advantage of human complacency. India’s problems, apart from some inevitabilities, have been fuelled by people letting their guards down, attending gatherings, and confusing political messages.

April 22, 2021: Forget governments, royalty, bureaucrats, media commentators and present and former players who were up in arms. The abortion of a controversial scheme to form an elitist European football league was due largely to the fans, whose angry protests across England have forced all participating English clubs to change their minds.

It’s truly “People power” that killed a potentially mega business plan which could have been worth as much as the national budget of a small country and occupied headlines earlier this week. In spite of COVID-19, fans gathered to condemn their own teams, or put banners, or threatened to remove previous ones they had made in support of their clubs. That was on the streets. On social media, condemnation was even much fierier. There was no way the government of England could have supported or given hints of support for the European Super League scheme, which was announced on Sunday and then died quickly.

To cut a long story short, the scheme was criticised for “exclusive benefits” for only top, richest clubs whereas standard or poor teams and players would gradually fade away for they would work for fewer and fewer incentives.

But the “founders” of clubs plotting the scheme did not entirely lose. UEFA has promised bigger paychecks for participants of UEFA Champions League, the existing competition which was badly threatened by the collapsed plan. The new payment was a lot more massive than the old one, in fact so big that some says the plotters have successfully “duped” UEFA by “pretending” to break away.

April 21, 2021: If COVID-19 numbers in Thailand do not improve in two weeks, Thais must be prepared for tougher measures, the prime minister has warned.

At a field hospital in Nongjok district, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha stated that relevant figures after two weeks would show whether current measures allowed the government to be “in control or not.”

“Of course, we will need a stronger pill if the numbers get worse,” he said, responding to a question whether a curfew was in his mind.

He expressed satisfaction with facilities and services at field hospitals, said more vaccines were on the way but admitted a global squabble over who should get the vaccines first and by how much has become increasingly intense.

“We (the government) are trying our best, but it’s also up to how Thais behave themselves,” he said.

April 20, 2021: Street protests. Violence. Claims of superpower interference. Does it sound familiar? This time, though, America is the victim of a plot.

CNN has dramatised, in a big way, claims that foreign adversaries like Russia and China “weaponised” a lot of anti-American theories to sow further discord among the American population prior to, during, and in the aftermath of the infamous Capitol Hill rioting. The hostile foreigners apparently are not only “utilising the same false narratives to peddle disinformation on social media, but also fuelling a conspiracy theory that could incite more violence by domestic extremists”.

Such claims might as well have come from third-world countries suspicious of foreigners’ roles in political affairs on their soils. According to CNN, which has talked to “multiple sources”, “US officials are keenly aware that state-backed actors from countries like Russia have been amplifying QAnon messaging and federal agencies are investigating that foreign nexus as part of a broader effort to address the threat posed by domestic extremists in the wake of the January 6.”

QAnon is an underground movement that has been greatly discredited by Washington but enjoys a considerable following. It has been disseminating some truly shocking theories against rulers _ on or “beneath the surface” _ of the United States.

The accusations about hostile superpowers conspiring against America were in a report by the Soufan Center, a famous US-based research group proclaiming to be specialising on foreign affairs, security and intelligence.

April 19, 2021: Even CNN and BBC are going to town with it, so forget about sports websites and fans, who are generally furious about one of the most earth-shattering football projects of the generation.

The issue involves so many big questions, institutions, businesses and virtues. Even international politics will come into play a great deal. It will rock the foundations of top competitions to their cores, set the stage for fierce fights with domestic leagues, politicians, former players, regulators, and greatly complicate the World Cup. Bans and fan protests will be on an unprecedented scale, in the beginning at least.

To cut a long story short, 12 of Europe’s top football clubs have just officially announced their plan to form a so-called European Super League. They include Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus. A large degree of administrative independence means a big battle with current governing bodies of the world’s most popular sport.

CNN broke away from attacking China and criticising Donald Trump to lead with the Super League story. BBC also made the issue its headline news, replacing domestic politics and Prince Philip. The Guardian’s football page went all-out with the Super League scheme, running reports and commentaries that are mostly negative toward the idea.

Controversies revolve around “downgrading” of existing competitions and futures of big ones like the UEFA Champions League. The issue of “greed”, of course, plays a big part in most stories and commentaries.

April 18, 2021: In a hard-hitting article, a former US mayor has outlined the depth of racist problems in the United States and called for the immediate setting up of a national commission that would set historical records straight, do so publicly so everyone knows how serious the situation is, analyse the current trouble and find solutions.

Black and Asian Americans have been targeted for systematic including physical abuses and the problems, blamed somewhat on ex-president Donald Trump and his controversial election “loss”, have gone on unabated in the present Joe Biden era. There has even been newly-passed legislation considered to be racist that would have caused a human rights uproar if it had been enacted elsewhere. On the social media, Asian people see clips of physical assaults on Asian Americans everyday.

Mitch Landrieu began his commentary by questioning claims about equality.  “Racism remains this nation’s Achilles’ heel. … we have a long way to go to fulfil America’s promise of justice and equal opportunity for every American,” he said.

It’s time to stop describing incidents as random or “individual” and start seeing the problems as systematic with solid root causes, the former New Orleans mayor said. He implied that giving states a degree of independence when racism is concerned would not cut it. All America needs is a no-holds-barred joint effort to erase “false version” of whatever amplifying racism in the country, he pointed out.

“The United States is in a desperate need of a Truth and Racial Healing Commission,” he concluded. “Too few of us know our history and even fewer accept systematic racism as a root cause of the many problems we face today.”

April 17, 2021: Topping it all is an increase in the US-China spat over how the pandemic came to be whereas business reasons seem to be playing a role in debate on which vaccines are better and which one are not that safe. In Thailand, taunts have flown all over the social media after politicians previously critical of the Bangkok government’s vaccine policy were the first to line up for jabs in the arms.

CNN has implied that China was doing well through “propaganda” and downright “cover-up” in influencing the global COVID-19 narrative, thanks to Beijing’s increasing confidence in the world stage. In other words, as the world nears an “End Game” in the war between human beings and the coronavirus, the United States and China, who are the economic, technological and political superpowers and hence are supposed to work sincerely and unconditionally together, are still quarrelling over how it began.

The same US network, speaking very much for America, is also reporting scientific “doubts” over the effectiveness and “risks” of some vaccines which apparently are not those coming from the United States. Never mind that local politics in America, amplified by Donald Trump’s election loss, is disrupting vaccination among Americans, too.

The Thai social media, meanwhile, have seen verbal exchanges gone viral after Move Forward MPs were quick _ critics say too quick _ to “take risks on behalf of the people”. Having criticised the Prayut government’s vaccine policy and some even saying imported vaccines were ineffective, the MPs became the first to show up to state their intention to receive jabs. One MP in particular had said he would never receive a shot because Thai people were getting nowhere near enough vaccines.

Regardless of those local and global backdrops, the coronavirus continues to spread.

April 16, 2021: On the one hand, it’s bold. To invite viewers to criticise itself and disclose the magnitude of criticism by itself is rare for a media outlet. On the other hand, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) did not have many choices, a situation resulting by no small measure from its own doing.

The outlet is getting stuck in between worlds of conservatism and liberalism. Its “wall-to-wall” coverage of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh came against a backdrop of the need to divert “negative” attention from the Harry and Meghan interview and that was probably one of the reasons why many BBC viewers were frustrated about what the network did in the aftermath of of the passing away of Prince Philip.

Yet BBC cannot be seen as too “royalist”, particularly in the eyes of the outside world, where the network has been painting anti-establishment people as “liberal”, stopping just short of supporting them openly.

So, what happened then when Prince Philip died? BBC went all out in reporting activities, condolences and tributes. When complaints started to flood in, it made the criticism formal by creating a dedicated form, then announcing a jaw-dropping count itself along with a virtual excuse that it was an event of “national significance.”

In announcing that it had received around 110,000 complaints and counting over a short period of time, the BBC defended its coverage as something that had to be done. “We acknowledge some viewers were unhappy with the level of coverage given, and impact this had on the billed TV and Radio schedules. We do not make such changes without careful consideration and the decisions made reflect the role the BBC plays as the national broadcaster, during moments of national significance,” it said.

The biggest story on the BBC website two days ago had to do with which royal family members would walk in the coffin parade.

April 15, 2021: Continued infections in countries like America and new, big alarms in countries like Thailand are making an ultimate question more resounding: How much effective vaccines the world currently have are against variants of the coronavirus?

The answer is that scientists do not know for sure but it’s currently their priority to find out. Existing vaccines “recognise” the variants, but there is not enough data to conclude either way whether they can fight them or not. What can be said scientifically now, probably too vague for comfort, is that vaccines “provide some level of protection” against the new strains.

Good news is the new variants, while more easily transmissible, apparently don’t cause “more severe symptoms”, but bad news is that the original virus was causing severe conditions already. Maybe the biggest aim of mutation is more about spreading than killing or hospitalising people.

On treatment of those infected or showing symptoms, data is still being collected on how effective popular medications are against new strains, which can be identified through tests. In other words, patients infected with the original or evolving coronavirus are being treated in more or less the same way. As of now, there have been no drastic changes in treatment methods or medications.

More good news is that scientists are working around the clock to understand the new strains, meaning more information and understanding is mounting as we speak. More bad news is that there are solid fears that current infections being reported all over the globe may include more cases of variants than we think.

April 14, 2021: Complaints have flooded the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) over what many people regard as excessive Duke of Edinburg coverage, which reportedly even turned off some viewers.

The complaints led to some programming suspensions and prompted BBC to put a dedicated form on its website to allow viewers to complain about its coverage.

No matter how BBC regards royal coverages elsewhere (outside England), its own Prince Philip coverage has been considered too much by many regular viewers. In the aftermath of Prince Philip’s death, the BBC cleared its regular TV and radio programming and broadcasted special news reports and tribute programmes instead. That coincided with a “tone change” in the media, especially in the UK, after the obvious negativity generated by Harry and Meghan’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey.

According to CNN, the BBC was “inundated with complaints about its wall-to-wall coverage” of the Prince Philip-related British royal affairs.

April 13, 2021: The World Health Organisation has shown a mixture of optimism and pessimism regarding the global COVID-19 situation, saying vaccine rollouts and their effectiveness were positive but human nature is contributing to a lot of avoidable cases, hence a still-alarming trajectory.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said confusion and complacency have made the COVID-19 curve remain upward and still pretty much worrying. He did not voice strong objection to reopening, but issued a diplomatic statement that the overall situation remains bad.

“We too want to see societies and economies reopen,” he said. “But hospitals around the world are (still) overflowing and many people are (still) dying, and it’s totally avoidable.”

He said that the decline in cases in many hotbeds proved that the virus could be stopped. But he said infections rates in many places remain higher than it should have been, driven by confusion, complacency and inconsistency of measures.

Another senior WHO official said the fact that the trajectory was still upward showed that the world was at a critical, if not make or break, point when the pandemic is concerned.

April 12, 2021: All of a sudden, one Thai COVID-19 record is not that far from the United Kingdom’s. Daily infections in Thailand are now hovering around the 1,000 mark, which is more or less half of the UK rate.

Why is that significant? The UK not so long ago was one of the worst hotbeds. It probably still is today, but that only makes the Thai prospects scarier.

Daily infections in the UK are fewer than 2,000 now, and restrictions are being eased. The country and Thailand seem to be going in opposite directions at the moment, with the Bangkok government being forced to either implement or contemplate economically tough measures.

As Thailand’s Songkran plans are upended at all levels, England continues its roadmap out of the third nationwide lockdown. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is calling on people all across his country to enjoy long-lost freedoms as non-essential services including many shops, hairdressers and gyms reopen.

April 11, 2021: American health authorities have been alarmed by a remarkable increase in infections and hospitalisations among younger adults who seemed to be far less susceptible to COVID-19 earlier.

The new variant, easily transmissible and more dangerous, is a key suspect, in addition to the fact that many old people in the United States have been vaccinated.

The worrisome data related to young people, many of whom associated with club and school sports, put a dent on an otherwise positive development regarding vaccine administering in America.

It has been reported that more Americans age between 18 and 64 are being treated or visiting emergency rooms, and the trend is “magnified” in the Upper Midwest.

One American health official also warned against a “COVID-19 fatigue” which causes normally-careful people to drop their guards. For example, social-distancing rules are not observed as strictly as before and many people are not washing their hands or wearing masks as often.

April 10, 2021: A major anti-corruption group has slammed flawed national attitudes including lack of proper ethics among the powers-that-be, saying they all cause the coronavirus to wreak havoc in Thailand at the moment.

The Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand said powerful politicians living a careless lifestyle at a time when they should have set a good example for the nation; corruption in the foreign-labour business and supervision of entertainment venues; and people disobeying legal prohibitions have opened the door for COVID-19 to spread menacingly in the country.

The agency’s secretary-general, Mana Nimitmongkol said “the most urgent thing” the government needs to do was punishing the authorities including the police found responsible for the violations of legal measures and taking serious action against those with ethical irresponsibility.

April 9, 2021: It’s a race for survival. One side is a deadly virus threatened by vaccination containment while the other is mankind hoping to work together fast enough and probably sincerely enough to avoid being overcome by the former.

An increasing number of health authorities are admitting that vaccination availability, innovation, production, storage, transport and politicisation are threatening to give the still-evolving coronavirus an edge, and light at the end of the tunnel when news of vaccines’ development first emerged will soon get dimmer if nothing changed.

Thailand is in global news today, as a country that first seemed to have the virus under control but is closing pubs and other entertainment venues and squirming with the massive Songkran travels drawing near. It is one of the countries staring at new scary records this week.

“We are currently in a race between the vaccines and the variants,” a health expert was quoted as saying in America, the home of what were dubbed reliable vaccines and hotbed of deaths and infections.

April 8, 2021: Many countries big and small are reporting that their COVID-19 situations are worse than the same time last year, when the world did not even have any vaccine. India has reported more than 126,000 infection cases in one day today, the highest single-day rise in the country ever. As for Thailand, a cynical warning is that “Don’t follow the trend” because high-profile cases or “celebrity infections” are being continuously reported.

Here and abroad, fears about the “UK strain” are rising inexorably. It is much, much more infectious and, globally, has struck where young people like to go like pubs and sport centres. With many high-risk adults getting prioritised vaccination, the virus apparently knows how to adapt and where to attack. In the United States, where what were thought to be world-saving vaccines originated, daily infection numbers are still very much worrisome, with tens of thousands still getting the virus everyday and the UK strain predicted to become dominant among Americans really soon.

Although Brazil has less than two-thirds of the US population, it logged nearly 4,200 deaths two days ago. That is eerily close to the US peak of 4,476 deaths recorded on Jan 12.

Thailand is nowhere near those two countries in terms of infections and deaths, but is seeing a great curtail of nightlife and an abundance of self-imposed isolations, which are absolutely bad news for the economy.

April 7, 2021: Business and individual plans for the upcoming Songkran face major disruptions as COVID-19 numbers in Thailand continue to rise, giving all Thais a new scare.

It was initially thought that after last year’s cancellation, this year’s Songkran was tipped for a comeback, albeit with cultural activities taking priority over water throwing and modern-day partying. Now, many trips have been put off, meaning travel-related businesses are looking at doom and gloom. Planned meetings of friends in cities have also been put on h0ld, with pubs and restaurants, a focus in the new outbreak, standing to be among big sufferers.

Songkran-induced economic revival is now in serious doubts.

April 6, 2021: You can be alarmed over current COVID-19 numbers but as long as you keep your guards high, your Songkran in its most traditional and cultural sense will not be ruined.

That is a message from Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, speaking as Thailand faces a new spike in infection numbers and gears toward Songkran celebrations in a few days. He ruled out restrictions on cross-province travels, the most normal Songkran activity that allows family members to reunite and children to visit parents or grandparents.

“Songkran in its most original sense is all about paying respect and seek blessings from senior people, not going to pubs or partying the night away,” said Anutin. “As long as safety measures are practiced and people don’t carelessly have too much fun, it will be ok.”

April 5, 2021: Embattled Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha must have good reasons why he has given virtually zero verbal hints on how long he intends to stay in power. Today, he continues to frustrate both supporters and haters alike with a comment that can mean anything.

Prayut must have known anything resembling a verbal clue will be scrutinised inside and out by everyone, so, when he spells out his “cheap home” vision for the poor today, he offered two scenarios.

“I will do my best as long as I have the responsibility and power to oversee it,” he said while presiding over the completion ceremony of a section of a cheap-home-for-rent project, which has only taken a baby step toward a very lofty goal of giving every Thai a place they can call home _ even if they have to rent it. The ceremony was at a government housing project on a Bangkok suburb.

“When the responsibility and power are no more, I will ask my successors to make sure they follow up on this project right away,” he said.

In other words, if he stays, he will continue to prioritise the goal, which will take years and years. If he doesn’t, he will ask the next government to carry on with it.

His speech could not end with a usual, characteristic dig. He said he was happy today, seeing smiles of the first beneficiaries of the project. “Too many sullen faces on the news nowadays,” he commented. “That’s not supposed to be the way things are _ people getting angry and hating all the time.”

April 4, 2021: Jatuporn Prompan is walking on a tightrope he has virtually put out for himself, and his protest seeking to expose Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as “unfit” to lead could as well lead to a scrutiny of the activist’s own political ability.

Too many conditions have been laid down by Jatuporn as well as his current and former allies for the activist’s attempted resurgence to probably be a successful comeback. He wouldn’t obstruct traffic. He wouldn’t attack the highest institution. He had cautioned against violence. He has threatened to renounce his already shaky status as a red-shirt leader if red-shirt groups do things he does not like. He would not be able to invoke Thaksin Shinawatra’s name in his fresh political move, which seeks to “unite all colours” of Thailand. His rally stage would not be smeared with rude words or hate speeches. Last but not least, he doesn’t seem to like the three-finger salute.

Those are severe limitations when political protests are concerned. One violation can be amplified. Two or more could expose Jatuporn as a hypocrite or opportunist and backfire badly against him.

It’s too soon to judge Jatuporn’s protest in its first day today, but while he wants public attention to focus on Prayut, it can be said that the focus will not be exclusively on the prime minister, but on him, too. Many are waiting to see if it is a grand comeback, or a sad swansong.

April 3, 2021: Beijing could have as well screamed “Mind your own business”. Its newly-released human rights report on the United States is as biting as they come.

The Report on Human Rights Violations in the United States in 2020, publicised a few days ago by China’s State Council Information Office, cited among many examples America’s out-of-control COVID-19 situation, hate politics, systemic racial discrimination, and soaring numbers of shootings. Those issues, the agency said, involved or were results of disrespect for human rights.

“The U.S. government, instead of introspecting on its own terrible human rights record, kept making irresponsible remarks on the human rights situations in other countries, exposing its double standards and hypocrisy on human rights,” the report read.

It goes ahead to charge that cutthroat politics in America was responsible for its high COVID-19 death and infection tolls, that “hate politics” was a “plague” whose major symptom was the Capitol Hill violence, that violent incidents involving coloured people in America were a result of “systematic” and deep-rooted discriminations, and that the real problem for global security is America.

It urged Washington to drop its hypocrisy, bullying, big stick diplomacy and double standards and work with the international community to build a community with a shared future for humanity.

Two main things are certain: The US-China showdown will be a big backdrop of political situations in many countries; it will intensify because China is challenging the US supremacy and the US is trying to keep the status quo, or world order as we know it, as long as possible.

April 2, 2021: Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s legal reprieve in the rice pledging scheme scandal has featured in an accumulating pile of politically-related court incidents.

Where’s a leading young protester rumoured to have fled Thailand? What’s the health condition of hunger striker Parit Chiwarak? What’s next for the “whistle mob” leaders who have appealed against guilty verdicts? Will Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit get new charges under Article 112? How many bail requests are there and how many will sail through? Everyday, there is a drama. Everyday, something unexpected happens. This will continue for quite some time.

Today, many jaws have dropped after the Administrative Court removed an order for Yingluck to pay for financial damage of the rice scandal. Initial responses have been that the government would appeal, and coalition leaders have dared Yingluck to return from exile if she thinks the Administrative Court’s ruling constituted a solid “not guilty” verdict.

One thing is certain: The Administrative Court’s move will not eradicate charges of “judicial conspiracy” against people on one side of the political divide, in spite of the fact that it was not the first legal ruling that went their way. First and foremost, the Constitution Court, a target of the present anti-establishment campaign, let Thaksin Shinawatra off the hook in 2001 in the “servants’ shares” scandal.

April 1, 20211: It is a few days to go before Jatuporn Prompan’s attempted resurgence can be judged, but Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is quick to play it down.

“It’s not up to me to be worried,” Prayut said. He added that all people need to do was watch clips of what happened in 2010. He was referring to the red-shirt uprising in 2010 that shut down downtown Bangkok for weeks, triggered bombings in the neighbourhoods of Ratchaprasong, caused hospital invasions, and culminated in violent crackdowns and burning of the Central World shopping complex.

“Anyone old enough to see what happened can tell him,” Prayut said.

March 31, 2021: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha does not want the coalition government to be embarrassed in Parliament over the referendum bill, which would pave the way for the Thai people to be consulted on whether and how the present charter should be changed, according to a deputy prime minister.

Wissanu Krea-ngam said Prayut was confident that Parliament would approve the constitutional referendum, but the prime minister wanted to make sure that details of the bill, to be deliberated in the next few days, represented what the government “has thought through”.

“The prime minister wants every government MP to take the bill very seriously,” said Wissanu.

March 30, 2021: Key red-shirt leader Nattawut Saikua is being ambiguous about his next political moves, after another top red-shirt head Jatuporn Prompan had surprisingly announced a planned street protest against the prime minister.

Nattawut today voiced support for the new generation of anti-establishment protesters, calling them his comrades and continuing to condemn social and political “injustice”, but he said he had only talked to Jatuporn on the phone and never about the April 4 planned protest.

“You’d better ask people who know better,” Nattawut told reporters. “I have only had normal chats with Jatuporn on the phone.”

There had been reports about strained ties between Jatuporn and the other red-shirt leaders. Jatuporn also clashed recently with the Shinawatras during the Provincial Administrative Organisation elections, but rumours that he was defecting to “the other side” have been put to rest when he announced the anti-Prayut street campaign a few days ago.

Jatuporn said his campaign would be strictly against Prayut and would have nothing against Thailand’s highest institution.

Like many top activists on both sides of the national divide, Jatuporn and Nattawut had been in jail.

March 29, 2021: Water throwing could be toned down all across the country as Thais seeks to resume traditionally and economically important Songkran celebrations in the COVID-19 era.

Instead of splashing water indiscriminately, many Thais would rather “sprinkle” it carefully under an initiative being promoted by the Tourism and Sports Ministry, which hopes that if Thailand emerges unscathed from Songkran, measures would become groundwork for overall tourism revival for the country.

This year’s Songkran slogan put forth by the ministry calls for “mask wearing” and an end to “water throwing”, which should be replaced by polite pouring or sprinkling. Typical Songkran innovations which in recent years mainly involved powerful water guns may give way this year to plastic masks covering all sensitive parts of the face.

In a way, “New Normal Songkran” hopefully could help Thailand return to the old times.

According to Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the government hoped this year’s Songkran would be a “Game Changer” for Thailand’s tourism industry, affected badly by COVID-19.

The occasion should be the start of serious efforts to return Thailand to the real cultural hallmarks of Songkran, promote beautiful ancient traditions, encourage Thais to explore destinations in their own country and help foreigners to truly appreciate the country’s cultures, he said.

March 28, 2021: It was a speech at a Pheu Thai-organised event, but the message was not what the biggest opposition wants to hear.

Chadchart Sittipunt insisted that he would definitely run in the Bangkok gubernatorial election as an independent candidate, despite Pheu Thai’s efforts to lure him back to its folds.

“I haven’t been talking to the Pheu Thai Party,” said Chadchart, speaking at a “The Change Maker” forum of the party at a hotel over the weekend, addressing a question concerning himself and another strong candidate, former police chief Chakthip Chaijinda. “I will run as an independent to give the people an alternative. I’m not competing for or against anyone.”

Being a guest speaker on a “Future Thinking” topic, he was asked what would be the one change in Thailand if he could make anything happen. His reply was that he wanted to erase “technological gap” which was widening and becoming a new social “injustice.”

On Bangkok’s traffic problems, he suggested that he would be very active about them, proposing a powerful committee headed by the Bangkok governor to tackle day-to-day situations.

March 27, 2021: There is probably no reason for the world to be concerned just yet, but it’s worth taking note of what US President Joe Biden has said anyhow regarding racism and situations involving black people in his country.

In a strongly-worded statement, he called a racially-related law in Georgia “Jim Crow in the 21st century” and a “blatant attack on the Constitution.”

The law concerning voting rights of the non-whites has been adopted in a usually pro-Republican state, which Biden won last year amid claims of electoral fraud by the pro-Trump campaign. Biden, who had voiced disapproval of racism in America, blames Republicans for the “atrocious” law.

“This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century and it must end,” he said. Jim Crow refers to the 19th and 20th Century laws that enforced racial segregation in the US South, which fought bitterly with the North in the Civil War.

“Instead of celebrating the rights of all Georgians to vote or winning campaigns on the merits of their ideas, Republicans in the state instead rushed through an un-American law to deny people the right to vote,” Biden said.

The American Civil War had a principal cause in the southern states’ “enslavement” of black people, treatment of whom led to snowballing and internecine conflicts between the North and the South. A remarkably high turnout of black people in Georgia is believed to be a main reason why Biden won there last year.

A US president attacking a state law is rare. Adding to that is a backdrop of pro-Trump uprisings here and there, and simmering racial tensions caused by a string of deaths or other “injustice” cases concerning non-white people in America.

A lot of analysts believe ideological differences among American people are progressively smouldering, and the “agree to disagree” status quo will struggle to survive.

March 26, 2021: What ex-president Jimmy Carter warned Donald Trump against is apparently not going to be heeded by Joe Biden, who has strongly and publicly implied that China’s overall success is challenging the worthiness of democracy.

In a stinging criticism of the United States, Carter, speaking during the Trump era, described his country as being “warlike”, albeit going to wars in the name of democracy, so much so that it had concentrated too much on military technological development and allowed China to leapfrog or threaten to leapfrog in industrial, economic, innovative and technological developments for public interests.

Carter was backed up by tangible evidence. While the United States might still be ahead in military developments, China has built fast trains, created skyscrapers in record times, set up quality “field hospitals” overnight, teleported certain elements to the outer space, advanced cloning technologies and did not let ideology become a stumbling block when trades and businesses are concerned. While the Trump administration favoured drumming up criticism against threats to global security and human rights, the Asian nation has not actually dragged itself into wars with other countries in recent memories.

To add to that, what initially looked like a groundswell of COVID-19 pandemic in China was quickly brought under control. The United States, on the other hand, has been topping unenviable global COVID-19 charts.

Biden was apparently aware of those facts, but it’s obvious he’s seeing them in a different light. What he said in one of his first press conferences as president of the United States was virtually that America’s big task was prove to the world democracy works best.

“It’s clear, absolutely clear … this is a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies,” the new president said. “That’s what’s at stake here. We’ve got to prove democracy works.”

It was aimed at China, which is getting richer and richer and poised to overtake his country as the world’s economic superpower. When that happens, the number of ideological questions, which are abundant already, will multiply. To be fair to Biden, he has reasons to be concerned.

The global rivalry between the United States and China has been greatly affecting the national courses of other countries, and giving the world added perspectives on issues like 5G and Hong Kong.

March 25, 2021: Fathers and mothers are their children’s “guardian angels” whereas teachers and elderly people shall be properly revered, and people who disagree with these “Thai characteristics” should try to find out why it has been so, according to the prime minister.

“This is a democratic society so I will never make them (the characteristics) rules,” Prayut Chan-o-cha said. “(People who don’t agree with me) can talk among themselves to try to find out why it has been the case for this country.”

On Thailand’s COVID-19 situation, he insisted that what’s happening locally is “better than many countries” but protesters should be aware of the risks they are taking and the possibility of spreading infections to loved ones.

March 24, 2021: Thailand’s unpredictable political course may have much to do with what happens to land scandals in Ratchaburi, with government MP Pareena Kraikupt and leading opposition figure Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit fully embroiled in controversies in the same province.

The justice process, which is on-going, requires investigation into details which may yet be different. But, politically speaking, what happens to one may have to happen to the other, otherwise charges of double standards will reach feverish levels. It appears politically inconceivable that one will be found guilty while the other is left off the hook.

Pareena had seemed buoyed up recently when her campaign against the Juangroongruangkit family led to investigation and finally cases against Thanathorn and his mother, Somporn, for alleged encroachment on reserved forest land. Her campaign was carried out amid charges against herself, with a significant court order expected this week.

The Palang Pracharath MP, whose parliamentary status is hanging in the balance, has been downbeat of late, and her Facebook post earlier this week reflected that, ending with a curious hashtag saying she would like to “rest” and was “feeling sad.”

March 23, 2021: Extremely rude verbal exchanges happen all the time among people with ideological differences, but politicians have to be careful with their targets, and hence venting public anger on ordinary people on the opposite side is a no-no.

Ex-energy minister Pichai Naripthaphan has made jaws drop by giving his “foot” to supporters of the Prayut government in a tweet. His exact word is “Son Teen”, which is a lot ruder than “My foot” in English.

Critics say that Pichai is not just a politician, but he is also an ex-minister who has every chance of returning to government office. A very negative attitude toward people with an ideology he doesn’t like raises many disturbing questions, whether those people constitute a small minority, or a majority, or a significant portion of the population, according to the critics.

Imagine anyone in the Prayut government giving their “Son Teen” to protesters or their sympathisers, the critics say. Some of the critics, however, admitted that Pichai’s attitude underlined the depth of the current political divide, with more and more people who matter voluntarily taking side or being forced to take side.

Pichai is also a deputy leader of the Pheu Thai Party, whose de facto patriarch, Thaksin Shinawatra, once suggested that project and development priorities would be given to supporters of his party first.

March 22, 2021: Anti-establishment protesters now are cautioning one another that taxi cabs, especially those waiting for passengers near their areas of activity, might be operating “for the other side.”

The warnings followed a reported incident on Saturday evening. Details remained very sketchy, but apparently a couple of suspects were delivered by the cab driver they had hailed to check-point police. The driver reportedly overheard a conversation about unprecedented vandalism.

One warning came from a virally-shared post by actress Inthira Charoenpura, who was apparently exchanging experiences with another person. The post mentioned a past encounter with a cab driver who only talked about protests and did not seem to know any route.

Saturday’s taxi issue was one of fallouts of the violence on that day, which could turn against or favour either side. For example, one video clip appeared to show protesters capturing a man who had thrown a mini bomb. “I’m one of you,” the man yelled while being wrestled to the ground. Whether he was one of them, or an infiltrator, or a third-party instigator, he was holding a significant clue on Saturday’s violence and should be properly investigated.

Crucial details are still emerging and developments, such as those concerning the fates of certain MPs and politicians, are still unfolding.

March 21, 2021: News outlets and social media content may have painted Saturday’s anti-establishment protest in different lights, but for all warring pieces of information, some disturbing facts about what happened cannot be disputed.

The first fact: Mini bombs and rubber bullets were used. The former by protesters and the latter by the police.

The second fact: It was peaceful in the afternoon. Things turned ugly at the sundown. When protesters could not fly their paper aeroplanes over the cargo containers at Sanam Luang, they brought down one. After that, tension rose sharply. Water cannons were activated. “Ping-pong bombs” exploded. Projectiles were thrown. Rubber bullets were fired. Some activists were arrested. Many things were burned. All these were captured on cameras.

The third fact: It marked the worst violence since the political protests began last year, registering the highest number of people injured, including the police, the number of people arrested, and burning or smouldering piles on the Rajadamnoen Avenue. It was the kind of political incident that would have gone big on CNN or BBC websites, which highlighted less eventful protests earlier.

The fourth fact: Some vandalism was described as unprecedented in nature, by both sides of the national divide, by the mainstream media, by social media pictures shared virally, and by Bangkok Metropolitan Administration workers cleaning up the area today.

The fifth fact: Free Youth conducted a poll, presumably after the chaos, asking its supporters whether the campaign should be carried on. Approximately one-fourth said “No” as opposed to the rest who said “Yes”. Shortly before the poll closed, fewer than 1,800 had voted.

March 20, 2021: US President Joe Biden is struggling against something that America proclaims to be demonic but seems to have originated in the land of the free itself.

A spike in anti-Asian violence in America is closely tied to hate speech online, starting in America and directed at Asian American and having exploded since former president Donald Trump publicly called the coronavirus “the Chinese virus.”

Hate crimes in America against people of East Asian descent has prompted Biden to describe racism as an “ugly poison that has long haunted and plagued our nation”, one which all Americans must join hands to try to eradicate. “Our silence is complicity”, he said.

Free speech is always an excuse for hate speech, and Biden is getting a hard, first-hand lesson on that. Social media hashtags against Asian Americans, directly or indirectly, have increased at a worrisome rate.

After “Black lives matter” last year, the race issue has once again caught the national spotlight following last week’s attack on three Atlanta-area massage parlours. The shootings left eight dead, including six Asian women. Whether or not it will eventually be confirmed as a hate crime or declared as something else, Biden is speaking against something that his government could not blame other countries for.

March 19, 2021: It was a comment that probably ruled out Thaksin Shinawatra’s chances of buying another football club, and underlined a worrying trend concerning his Clubhouse venture.

Supposedly talking about “the art of business negotiations” on the popular social media app a few days ago, Thaksin confirmed what most Manchester City fans had suspected all along _ that he bought the club with no passion whatsoever about the team, let alone football.

He said he was going football club shopping at the time, in mid 2000s, when many English Premier League clubs were up for sale. Manchester City became the best choice, he said, because the then-struggling team was cheap but its stadium could turn into a great asset. Owning a football club is good, he said, because “you can’t be forgotten.”

He boasted that he bought Manchester City at a price that is “impossible” nowadays, given the club’s changing fortunes.

Rule Number One of owning a football club, especially in England, is that you can’t talk like that about the team you possess. In other words, if you are doing it for business, which many entrepreneurs are, you keep that to yourself.

His brief ownership of Manchester City was so disastrous that the club virtually kept him out of its official history. Thaksin was described by its executive chairman Garry Cook as probably the worst mistake of his life.

“I have made some mistakes in my life, but I deeply regretted my failure to do proper research on Thaksin,” Cook was quoted by The Guardian as saying back in 2009. He went on to describe nightmarish situations under the Thai politician including times when the club was short of money to pay players, let alone buying new ones.

Thaksin’s earlier Clubhouse talk ended with harsh online criticism from people who wanted political changes in Thailand and who felt that he was beating around the bush too much on certain subjects.

March 18, 2021: Both the government and opposition blocs have serious work to do after Parliament voted down proposed constitutional changes the night before, with claims of betrayals, misunderstanding and simple legal and ideological conflicts rife within both camps.

Pheu Thai will investigate more than a couple of dozens of its MPs who failed to follow the party’s instructions regarding voting in the third reading. Two key coalition government parties will need to patch up possible differences over whether Thailand has to amend the Constitution rather significantly now. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, meanwhile, could kick-start a campaign to drum up people’s demand for changes to force another U-turn by Parliament, which had apparently agreed to a proposed setting up of an elected drafting assembly, only to do an apparent about-face following last week’s ruling by the Constitutional Court.

Things could have been more complicated had Parliament passed the proposed charter changes Wednesday night. But even though Parliament voted down the proposed amendments in their third reading, some critics insisted the voting shouldn’t have taken place at all, following the court’s ruling that major charter changes can happen on conditions that the Thai public are consulted all the way.

March 17, 2021: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has insisted, rather testily, that his much-publicised injection of a coronavirus vaccine was not “staged” as some alleged online.

“When I delayed the injection, I was a coward. Now that I have received a jab, it’s a fake jab. Come on. Isn’t there anything else to play with?” he told reporters. He added that it seemed there could be “dramas about everything.”

On a more serious tone, he cautioned about the increasing popularity of the “face shield”, a transparent protection against infection which has been used widely among people who have to appear in front of cameras.

“We still need completely reliable guards. We still don’t know how much safety the face shield can provide,” he said.

March 16, 2021: Constitutional Court judges are of the opinion that if “principles” of the 2016 charter are changed through amendment, then the Thai public have to give their consent, according to newly-released details of the court’s ruling.

The court said last week constitutional changes are natural, and that Parliament could go ahead with the unorthodox plan to set up an elected charter drafting assembly on conditions that the process is also embraced by the Thai people. The details of the ruling, which were released today and can be scrutinised word for word, make it clearer that the judges think “changes in principles” are different from changes that would not affect the established political structure of Thailand.

According to the judges, the first kind of changes are bigger and more important than the latter changes, and therefore should be allowed and then approved of by the stakeholders, the Thai people. For example, changes about education levels of elected representatives are not structural changes but scrapping the Senate may be.

As the roles, origin and relevance of the Senate are highlights of the present charter and anti-establishment campaign, debate on whether attempts to rewrite Thailand’s charter will contravene the founding principles of the current Constitution will be absolutely heated.

March 15, 2021: Divided opinions over how to proceed with the proposed charter amendment following last week’s ruling by the Constitution Court have reportedly confounded the judges, who apparently hope that verdict details to be issued very shortly should create better understanding among all concerned.

A news website, quoting an unnamed source within the court, said details of how the judges came up with the ruling that suggested referendums should accompany the entire charter amendment process shall be made public within a day or two. If possible, the details should be released before Parliament meets this week for the third reading of amendment proposals.

The source was quoted as saying that the Constitutional Court judges were surprised by clashing opinions on how the proposed charter amendment should go ahead.

March 14, 2021: The biggest opposition party has called for immediate parliamentary passage of proposed constitutional amendments before a public referendum can be conducted as suggested by the Constitutional Court.

The proposals would lead to the setting up of an elected drafting assembly, which would take over from Parliament in writing basically a new charter, a process that the Constitutional Court has said could proceed with public consent. This has divided opinions, with one camp insisting that parliamentary approval of the proposals would have legal binding that would contravene what the court thinks. There are even warnings that the third reading passage before a referendum would trigger a constitutional crisis.

But the Pheu Thai Party said Parliament could always pass the proposals in the third reading, scheduled this week, and a referendum can be held later on whether the Thai people need a new Constitution.

Party spokeswoman Arunee Kasayanond accused the government, which has a slight majority control of the House of Representatives, and the Senate of conspiring to derail charter amendment.

“A referendum can always take place after the third reading,” she insisted, reiterating the party’s stand on the vote-or-not issue, which will be the politically hottest this week.

March 13, 2021: In today’s world, a major political showdown can take place in Clubhouse, with Thailand seeing the first such clash this week, which involved Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

Anutin was frustrated by Thanathorn, a late comer to a Clubhouse session in which the government figure was a key speaker, dealing with the COVID-19 vaccination, and has gone on Facebook afterwards to call the latter a “liar”.

Thanathorn had called him so first, claiming Anutin lied to the public regarding the government’s vaccine policy. In the Facebook post, Anutin said things were going well in the Clubhouse room, with participants asking him scientific, non-political questions, until Thanathorn all of a sudden joined the talk.

“He began by saying that I had to stop my lies and start telling the public the truth,” Anutin said. “Then he went on to use old information that the Public Health Ministry tried to address time and again. I had to hit back because he is the one who’s a liar.”

The verbal exchange “ruined the atmosphere,” Anutin wrote. He said he left the Clubhouse talk soon afterwards before it completely turned political.

Apart from a curious activity with a school that prompted questions over whether it was an illegal political act and whether he had been given an official permission, Thanathorn has kept a low public profile lately.

March 12, 2021: Nobody knows what would, or should, happen at the third reading of the charter amendment proposals following the Constitutional Court’s ruling on Thursday that Parliament can change Thailand’s highest law, but it has to do so with public approval.

Even the man who oversees the legislative branch, Chuan Leekpai, also sounded ambiguous today. On the one hand, he said the third-reading vote would take place as scheduled, “without any problem.” On the other hand, he suggested the court’s ruling would be respected.

“Parliament’s legal specialists have given their opinions, which are that things must proceed according to what the (current) Constitution and the court say,” Chuan said. This prompted certain people to state that the current charter appears to call for a referendum if major changes are attempted regarding key institutions and regarding ways to amend the Constitution itself.

Asked again how “things can proceed” if what the Constitution and Constitutional Court say are really taken into account together, Chuan said without elaboration that voting can happen. “Don’t worry,” he said.

Some senators have said that the court’s ruling ruled out changing the charter without a prior public referendum. They have their reasons, specifically saying that the third-reading vote, scheduled to take place in days, would deal with ways to change the Constitution to pave the way for a big review that could affect key institutions in the future.

The Constitutional Court’s ruling on Thursday is the judges’ intricate way of staying out of the potentially explosive affair, of offering what looks like a tough compromise (Yes, Parliament can go ahead and set up an elected drafting assembly, but the public shall be consulted all the way), and of throwing the ball into everybody else’s court as a “democratic” charter will be totally democratic if tangibly embraced by the Thai people.

March 11, 2021: The Constitutional Court’s ruling on how charter amendment should proceed, expected any minute now, will have great ramifications no matter what, analysts agree.

Allowing the setting up of an elected assembly to do Parliament’s job means the future process can be strewn with flashpoints _ such as before, during and after elections, as well as when controversial proposals are mooted or put on the table. Disallowing it will add heat to the already volatile political atmosphere.

The Senate, meanwhile, can be subdued, or buoyed, or galvanised, or defiant whatever the court says.

When a drafting assembly took over from Parliament in virtually writing a new Constitution the last time, many of today’s protesters were not even born yet, and the atmosphere at the time (late 1990s) was not even half as divisive.

March 10, 2021: With varying degrees of intensity, key leaders of Thai protests who have been in custody for alleged aggressive activities including those prescribed under Article 112 are using Facebook to communicate with the court and their supporters.

The most belligerent and defiant appeared to be Panupong Jadnok (Mike Rayong), who posted: “When we win, the people will be the judges and you will be judged by the people.”

The most subdued seemed to be Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, who wrote: “Bail is constitutional right. We are still innocent according to the law. The court should make a decision based on this, and grant bail to us and other fellow suspects.”

Jatupat Boonpattararaksa (Pai Daodin) looked to be in the middle. He said: “Oppressed people have only two choices _ flight or fight. Life is as much as that.”

March 9, 2021: Allegations about irregularities concerning donated funds in the Thai anti-establishment movement used to be circulating within its limited circles, but they have become public so much and so fast that even its opponents’ jaws are dropping.

The allegations, hurled by key movement figures against one another over the past few days, revolves around a movie star who has been portrayed as strongly ideological and charitable. The movie star has always been called an “angel” of the protesters, but that image is now under a real threat.

The accusations have also been linked to another man, who is close to the movie star, and to why rock singer Chai-amorn “Ammy” Kaewviboon was arrested quickly after the royal portrait burning incident in front of the Klong Prem Prison.

Simply put, social media content generated by members and sympathisers of the anti-establishment themselves over the past several days was mudslinging on a great scale revealing alleged irregularities in fund mobilisation and management, big conflicts, mistrust and apparent betrayals.

Even commentators on the other side, or critics of the movement, have been puzzled by the level of washing of dirty linen in public among key anti-establishment figures and said they may have only managed to piece together the jigsaw of the tip of the iceberg.

March 8, 2021: The most recent opinion survey on Bangkok’s gubernatorial election may have ruled out chances of Chadchart Sittipunt running under the banner of the Pheu Thai Party.

The popular former transport minister decided to leave the party a long while ago, showing intention to run in the Bangkok election as an independent, but the latest the public know is that Pheu Thai tried to win him back. The NIDA poll, however, said 66 % in a survey of 1,315 Bangkok eligible voters wanted an independent candidate to become their Bangkok governor.

That apparently dashed any Pheu Thai hope of him rejoining the party, a scenario he himself described time and again as unlikely.

Chadchart was also the most popular candidate in the survey, supported by 22.43%. He was followed by former police chief Chakthip Chaijinda (15.51%). Good news for Chakthip is that 29.96% remained undecided.

The opinion poll was conducted on March 1-2.

March 7, 2021: Saturday’s arrest of a key leader of anti-establishment protesters’ “guards” and what followed represent major logistical, political and legal setbacks for the entire movement.

The arrest of Piyarat Jongthep, widely called as Toto, was a big manpower setback for the movement, but what ensued could generate worse ramifications, as it exposed many to serious legal trouble and the movement to harsh criticism.

A police truck carrying suspects who were alleged extremist guards linked to the movement was surrounded, smashed with heavy objects and its back door that kept detainees from escaping was prised open. The whole incident took place when the truck stopped near a traffic light in the Ratchayothin area. Several detainees were seen leaving through the opened door. The incident was captured on video and went viral Saturday night and Sunday morning.

There were also clips of angry men throwing objects at police trucks leaving the Major Ratchayothin entertainment venue. Pictures showed the front of a police truck smeared with paints and with windshield fractured.

Piyarat was arrested along with a few “friends” at the parking lot of Major Ratchayothin. They insisted they were there just to have a meal, but, according to police, the men were arrested allegedly with curious objects including slingshots, smoke bombs, hammers and marbles.

As assaults on the convoy of police trucks took place while “guiding” vehicles were missing and no traffic convenience was provided for the important suspect transport, one conspiracy theory had it that it was an “entrapment” operation to further discredit unruly guards or protesters. Whatever it was, the “rescue” of detainees could become a serious crime implicating many people.

Police said today Piyarat was arrested because of fears he and others might trigger violence. The Bangkok police chief, Phukphong Pongpetra, also told reporters legal action would be taken against everyone involved in destroying or damaging state properties. Investigation, he said, was on-going regarding the assaults on police trucks and “rescue” of detained suspects.

March 6, 2021: It’s easy to tell which opinion poll is the most “biased” in the eyes of anti-establishment activists, and the latest findings by Super Poll will not help it escape that label.

The agency surveyed 1,633 Thais this week, and more than 90 % of them agree on the following points: Protesters were responsible for damage on state properties that required taxpayers’ money to repair; those causing damage on properties should face arrests; crowd-control police did fine on February 28; crowd-control police exceeded international standards on February 28; (recent) street activities could lead to (increased) national divide and losses; (some) academics were helping (or encouraging) improper activities of protesters and; (some) foreigners were helping (or encouraging) improper activities of protesters.

The exact numbers are 96.2%, 96.7%, 95.9%, 95.9%, 95.4%, 94.1% and 92.3% respectively.

According to Super Poll chief surveyor Noppadon Kannika, a majority of Thais has grown increasingly suspicious that unknown figures were real leaders or influencers of protests and violence was what they wanted.

March 5, 2021: This month is supposed to up the political heat by several degrees, no matter how “weak” or “strong” the street movement is, and after an incident involving rock singer-turned-activist Chai-amorn Kaewviboon, the Consitutional Court is set to return to the spotlight for another major, crucial role yet.

The judges have received written expert opinions on how far Parliament can go regarding charter amendment, and a ruling is said to be less than a week away. A court decision against electing another body to replace Parliament in virtually writing a new charter would generate a major shockwave. But even if the court gives a green light for the setting up of such an assembly, Parliament’s final vote, scheduled for the second half of this month, could still derail the unorthodox plan.

So, both the court verdict and Parliament’s fateful final say will come this month, and whatever transpires will be heavily linked to what happens on the streets.

March 4, 2021: It’s one thing to back protesters calling for constitutional changes; it’s another to deal with an incident involving the burning of a royal portrait.

“Ammy to be cut loose?” is an online question that is going viral. The Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties obviously are having to walk a tightrope on arrested rock singer-turned-activist Chai-amorn Kaewviboon, who is being charged with a serious crime.

A “political persecution” outcry has faded after police showed video “evidence” which might have weakened claims that the man was framed. He, in fact, has admitted that he was responsible for the incident, making it harder for mainstream politicians to come out and speak in his favour.

The parties’ reticence can displease anti-establishment protesters, while speaking without restraint can expose them to serious legal and constitutional trouble.

March 3, 2021: Everyone on both sides of the national divide is talking about the development. TV and website news reports are all over it. And foreign countries must be closely watching how things are transpiring.

The arrest of an anti-establishment hardliner, a well-known singer now even better known thanks to his highly-controversial political activism, has ensured that Thailand’s political tension remains ultra-high. The standoff has reached a new milestone, in fact.

Despite reported confessions by Ammy Bottom Blues, or Chai-amorn Kaewviboon, regarding what happened in front of the Khlong Prem Prison early Sunday morning, the story is far from over.

March 2, 2021: Some may say Panupong Jadnok, a key anti-establishment activist famously known as “Mike Rayong” was nitpicking, but his observation _ that only arrested activists on his side had their heads all but shaved while in jail _ shall not be overlooked.

He was commenting on the guilty verdicts handed down on leaders of the “Whistle Mob” which shook the Yingluck government during its last days. Those found guilty have been released on bail pending appeals, with their hair intact.

“They went to jail (albeit temporarily) but no haircut. How about that? This is, of course, according to the script,” Panupong tweeted.

Former yellow-shirt leader and media veteran Sondhi Limthongkul, who was jailed for a few years, might beg to differ.

March 1, 2021: An iconic figure for the anti-establishment movement has warned against staging political protests without leaders, insisting that those wanting changes should “go home, regroup and start over.”.

The warning in exile by Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a former Thammasat academic facing charges under Article 112, came as protesters were engaged in skirmishes with security forces on Sunday evening which left dozens injured on both sides, cementing a perception that street confrontations could now turn violent any time and anywhere.

Protests will now be organised by the Free Youth network which has supposedly taken over street activities from Khana Ratsadon, whose image has ironically suffered from violent incidents of late.

Sunday’s protest in front of the headquarters of the First Infantry Battalion of the First Regiment of the Royal Guards was the first major one since the “takeover”. It was immediately marred by images of security forces using rubber bullets and high-power water sprays, brick-throwing protesters, sounds of mini explosions and scattering crowds.

“To me, holding protests without leaders is not a good idea,” Somsak, who earlier had all but ruled out chances of protesters winning early, wrote on his Facebook. “I think the gathering had better end and everyone should go home, regroup and then start over.”

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