23 July 2024

November 30, 2022: Democracy’s greatest paradox is that sooner or later the “economic freedom” the system provides will come back to haunt itself big time.

Capitalism, the idea that “free” economic thinking and practices of the private individuals produce better results than state-controlled manoeuvrings, is often associated with democracy and it always looks good on paper. In reality, capitalism promotes greed and widens the gap between the rich and the poor, the very condition that undermines democracies anywhere, in some cases quickly while slowly but surely in others.

Don’t let the ideological language of the Stockholm-based International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) fool you. IDEA has said half of the world’s democracies are in a state of decline amid worsening civil liberties and rule of law while already-authoritarian governments are becoming more oppressive. Truth is that what is actually destroying democracy is what has been conspicuously left out from the IDEA report, which is full of such terms as social contracts, youth disillusionment, and distrust in the legitimacy of elections.

IDEA is right in saying that democracies are in jeopardy throughout the world. But IDEA’s “toxic mix” which it says is responsible for democracies’ decline around the globe does not include the fact that economic “freedom” is being taken advantage of by smart but greedy people who are enriching themselves at the expense of others. This very situation is making people lose faith in what democracy promises them.

Other systems have the luxury of putting the majority at the bottom of the pyramid and persisting like nothing happens. Democracy doesn’t have that privilege.

November 29, 2022: Speculation about politicians leaving or planning to leave the ruling party has coincided with rumours that pro-Prayut Ruam Thai Sang Chart is recruiting.

“It’s a small party at the moment, but you shall never underestimate it,” well-known political activist and academic Seri Wongmontha posted on his Facebook, referring to Ruam Thai Sang Chart.

He said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s final decision is key, meaning if he leans closer toward the new party, then its political significance will immeasurably increase.

This has coincided with reported worries among Palang Pracharath politicians. At a key party meeting this week, members reportedly asked one another whispered questions about their futures. There were also reports that some MPs were asked personally by party executives about their commitment to run as Palang Pracharath candidates. It was claimed that some were even asked to sign their names as confirmation.

Palang Pracharath, thanks largely to its pro-Prayut stance, did reasonably well in Bangkok and other parts of the country in the last general election, but its popularity has glaringly dipped, with the results of the recent Bangkok gubernatorial and City Assembly elections key pieces of evidence of its apparent decline. Analysts believe Palang Pracharath, whose relationship with the prime minister has been stormy lately, has been facing “double blows” _ from both haters and admirers of the prime minister alike.

November 28, 2022: Circumstances surrounding a trial related to the death of a three-year-old child in 2020 have become so messy that the mass suicide in the Jim Jones tragedy in America in 1978 has been mentioned.

Supporters of the key suspect, Chaiphol Wipa, are not expected to kill themselves like Jones’ cultish followers, but they are being drawn to a controversial celebration and worship of a naga structure which has been resembled on his private land in Sakol Nakhon after being removed from Mukdahan.

The planned, imminent celebration is highly contentious. Chaiphol has apparently announced a ban on practically everyone but those who think he is innocent. That the naga structure was built from donation money, some of which coming from those who now believe he is guilty, the ban is being questioned with some vowing to take the issue to the court.

The celebration, critics claim, could also usher in amulet-like objects produced and put on sale by the suspect. This may also put faith and legality in a dangerous melting pot as well.

The alleged commercialization and extremism on both pro- and anti-Loong Phol camps are taking place amid an unprecedented exploitation of the social media to proclaim that he is innocent or guilty as sin. This has prompted fears that the court verdict, whatever it is, can generate untoward incidents.

Chaiphol, better known as “Loong (Uncle) Phol”, has been charged in connection with the death of Nong Chompoo in Mukdahan in 2020. She went missing before her body was found in a mountainous jungle near her home. Chaiphol was charged with kidnap and unlawful abandonment of a small child who died as a result. The mainstream media and social media were at first in unison in supporting him, creating a groundswell of unprecedented support that saw him singing on TV and concert stages and walking the catwalk, drawing massive donations in the process. But while the tide has turned, his most loyal backers are staying put and the mainstream media have all but stayed away from the case.

The trial has reached a crucial phase, with scientific experts testifying. Since nobody witnessed what exactly happened to Nong Chompoo, scientific evidence and the use of technology to interpret it is extremely important.

The trial’s backdrop is a huge mess. Both his supporters and opponents are using YouTube to vehemently advance their courses, using explicit language and raising a legal question as to whether they could do that. Some legal experts have switched side and the lines have been blurred on confidentiality and privacy. Chaiphol’s former residence has also become a subject of contention, because it was ruled to situate on a piece of forest land, leading to the removal of the naga structure and current calls for his entire house to be dismantled.

Faith is mixing badly with legality in Loong Phol’s case, which will also test the police’s credibility as the entire Police Department was endorsing his arrest. Religious, cultural, forestry and public work authorities have been drawn into the snowballing fray.

November 27, 2022: Opposite ratings in one of the latest popularity surveys on top government figures must have made two “friends” feel differently.

A Super Poll survey of 2,008 people over the past few days had Prayut Chan-o-cha top the government’s popularity list, followed by Anutin Charnvirakul and Jurin Laksanawisit. Coming a distant fourth is Prawit Wongsuwan.

Prayut was liked for attempting to mend national rifts and steering the country through crises whereas Anutin impressed the public for keeping his cannabis election promise and action on the COVID-19 pandemic. Jurin was noted for certain agriculture-related economic policies. Prawit, meanwhile, was remembered for water management and implementation of land policies.

But the gap between Prayut and Prawit was huge. While Prayut’s performance (compared with fellow government figures) was noted by some 85%, Prawit’s achievement or work was acknowledged by just over 44%, behind even Anutin and Jurin.

This could complicate the continued soul searching of Prawit’s Palang Pracharath which still has not finalized the issue of who it will support as the next prime minister.

November 26, 2022: A pre-World Cup joke had it that only “old” and politically-obsessed people would pay attention when America play Iran in the last day of their group stage, while “young”, football-loving lads wouldn’t care less. But things have changed.

To the politically-motivated adults who are not interested in football, after two games in Group A (Every team plays three matches in the group stage), there have been some unexpected results and they mean America must beat Iran to proceed to the knock-out stage, whereas Iran need just a draw to virtually get through.

America stunned England by drawing them hours ago and Iran had scored a dramatic win over Wales earlier, meaning either Iran or America can still progress depending on their performances when they meet each other next week.

To the kids who are not interested in international politics at the highest level, just watch Argo. It’s still on Netflix. (The American movie was said to be based on a true story, but there is suspicion in certain corners that some heavy dramatisation was used to dictate good-guy-bad-guy world views, just like what the Russian Roulette scenes in The Deer Hunter did to the Vietcong.)

November 25, 2022: Former US president Donald Trump is reportedly caught between a rock and a hard place regarding which social media platform he should prioritise.

The BBC story is strewn with business technicalities. But simply put, his own social media platform, Truth Social, which looks so much like Twitter, will lose significance and thus a sizeable sum of money. Truth Social was meant to be Trump’s response to the Twitter ban, which has however been reversed by new Twitter owner Elon Musk.

With Truth Social about to be engaged in a merger and thus go public, “exclusivity” provided by Trump is essential, not least after the man has declared an intention to run for the White House again. How much money are we talking about here? According to some estimates, Trump’s newly-merged company might be worth around $3-4 bn, which is probably why people waiting for Trump’s explosive comeback tweets would have to go on waiting.

It is said that there are some loopholes that he can exploit so he could at least once in a while send political messages through Twitter. But with investors taking a close look at the future potentials of Truth Social, those loopholes have not been taken.

November 24, 2022: The thin line between “independence” and “secession” was cinematically glaring in “Braveheart” but the same “rivals” will be engaged in a fresh showdown in reality.

Britain’s Supreme Court has ruled that Scotland’s government cannot unilaterally hold another referendum on whether to secede from the United Kingdom, but that verdict is setting the stage for another tumultuous period in the countries’ bitter-sweet relationship. Street protests have erupted and they could get bigger.

CNN said the court’s ruling would be “a blow to independence campaigners that will be welcomed by Westminster’s pro-union establishment.” The network has confirmed that the court this week unanimously rejected an attempt by the Scottish National Party (SNP) to force a vote next October, apparently because it did not have the approval of Britain’s parliament.

Strange, isn’t it? It would be so ironic if a “campaign for independence” has to be approved by the “ruling” country, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, the decision could unleash a fresh independence tide with the issue having loomed over British politics for a decade.

The Braveheart camp in Scotland last managed to push for a vote on the issue, with Westminster’s approval, in 2014, when voters rejected the prospect of independence by 55% to 45%.

November 23, 2022: The prime minister is “thinking about it” when asked if he would join a new political party instead of retiring from politics.

It was a short reply to a question that significantly concerns Thailand’s immediate political course. A direct “No” would probably make front pages, whereas a “Yes” would certainly become massive headlines.

Instead, he chose to say he was considering it, the closest to a “Yes” some may think. Despite issues that must have weakened the determination that made him oust the Yingluck government many years ago, rumours about him joining RTSC have been swirling lately

November 22, 2022: Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra says she does not get it why one administrative transfer, which she endorsed while being a democratically-elected leader, was so “wrong” and has caused “never-ending” trouble.

She was speaking about something that thrives in all kinds of ideological environments, but democracy is not supposed to let it grow. The best her legal representatives have to offer is “governments transfer officials all the time, so why her?”

In a tweet this week, Yingluck said: “Thailand is probably one country in the world where an elected prime minister has to undergo legal action for transferring an official.”

If her legal defence is right, then the word “nepotism” should be chalked off from the democratic dictionary and when “dictators” do it, there shall never be any complaint. Governments must decide who will work best for them, right? Was she implying that abilities and experiences are not the utmost prerequisites?

The controversy revolves around the case of Thawil Pliensri. To cut a long story short, he was removed as chief of the National Security Council while Yingluck was prime minister, so that then police chief Wichean Poteposree, who was at the time having to give the helm of the national police to political favourite Priewphan Damapong, allegedly could have a graceful exit. Priewphan got the police top job and Wichean was apparently “compensated” by being allowed to take over at the NSC with Thawil edged out. Thawil took a legal fight, which has dragged on through changing ideological and political atmospheres.

The choice of Priewphan was questionable at the time. Most people knew that he was very close to the Shinawatras, and records showed arguments were made against his qualifications for the highest police post. These pieces of information were included in Thawil’s complaint to the Administrative Court, which subsequently ruled in his favour.

November 21, 2022: England’s players will take the knee before kicking off their World Cup starting game against Iran today (Monday), but unlike most other games whose immediate pre-match routines like warm-up or pep talk allow viewers to settle in their seats or go to the restrooms, the world’s eyes will be glued to one of the English captain’s arms.

The English football authorities will decide whether Harry Kane must support LGBTQ+ rights by wearing the “OneLove” rainbow captain’s armband amid fears that the gesture could earn an instant booking, The Guardian reported. Teams from other countries advocating OneLove face the same dilemma.

Qatar, as we know, has traditional, cultural and even legal requirements that some football players and fans visiting the country may feel uncomfortable with. With Qatar playing Ecuador on the opening day, no major friction was reported. The rest of the tournament can be a different story, and there have been both direct and indirect warnings from FIFA against action that might offend the host country.

Qatar hosting the World Cup has been controversial, and we are only half way through. There are things that can explode either way. For example, whatever armband Kane wears today will likely become a big stir.

November 20, 2022: The prestigious trophy will motivate young men from 32 countries, but a lot more are on the line for many adults at the world’s biggest sporting tournament which starts in Qatar today.

Starting with the host. Qatar has waded through scandals and controversies _ and spent massively along the way _ to be in this position. A success will only feel like a good draw, but failure would reopen old, ugly wounds, not least after former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter admitted that choosing Qatar as the organiser was a bad mistake.

FIFA has been in a bad shape itself. FBI investigation, charges of corruption and several questionable policies have given the world’s governing body for football an unenviable image. In fact, many graft allegations were directly linked with the awarding of World Cup host status to Qatar.

Like Qatar, a good World Cup will do little regarding FIFA’s reputation. A bad World Cup and FIFA will face a perfect storm.

But FIFA has made sure it is not being smeared alone. In an explosive statement hours ago, FIFA President Gianni Infantino proclaimed that current criticism was “profoundly unjust” and said the West must be the last to teach the world what is good and what is bad.

“What we Europeans have been doing for the last 3,000 years, we should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons,” he said. In other words, he was suggesting that many people frowning on FIFA were hypocrites.

“Oil money” in football will also be holding its breath. Over the past few years, it has widened gaps among teams and changed the world’s most popular sport drastically in financial terms. But since “oil money” is closely associated with the likes of Qatar, a bad World Cup will prompt serious second thoughts.

On the field, meanwhile, a viral joke is that while kids can’t wait to see England squaring off against France or Germany playing Spain, adults will be plotting to make a big fuss out of a US-Iran showdown. Cristiano Ronaldo’s future is also at stake. If he performs well for Portugal, the Piers Morgan interview won’t be too bad. If he does not, Manchester United will say “see?” and he will find it extremely difficult to move forward.

Last but not least, the first World Cup to be held in an Arab country will measure popularities of international and club football. Previous World Cup took place after club football seasons were completed, but this one is interrupting, say, the dogfight for Top Four in England and the fierce battle in Spain between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Even before it starts, this World Cup has been dubbed the dullest ever.

But let the game begin anyway.

November 19, 2022: China wants countries to stop weaponising trade relations; America obviously wants a strong joint condemnation of Russia over the war in Ukraine; and many other countries do not want to get stuck in between.

Don’t let the apparently-amicable handshakes and sweet promises fool you. APEC, in the spot-on words of a major Asian media outlet, “opens atop Russia-US-China fault lines.” And it will end with probably that crucial fact getting swept under the carpet or blurred or softened by languages that need to be interpreted by journalists around the world.

Trade liberalisation or easing of restrictions will be announced and take place here and there. Cooperation and assistance will be promised. But the elephant in the room will most likely be here to stay. The “fault lines” will likely become more pressing instead of fading after the world leaders leave Bangkok.

November 18, 2022: American politics is generating increased confusion nowadays, and a big proof of that is none other than a former president, a popular one.

Barack Obama has warned that the Democratic and Republican parties would annihilate each other if they do not start really cooperating and dropping prejudices. But in the same breath, he invoked Democratic rhetoric denouncing the other side, the very thing contributing to a major political divide in the country.

“They got thumped. They got beat. And particularly in these secretary of state races, and in some cases, governor’s races, where in the next presidential election you could have somebody who could really do some damage there,” Obama said in an interview. “There, I think we held the line.”

He did not talk about the whole Republican Party to be fair, focusing on “election deniers”who his party says are torpedoing democracy. But his remark is not going to make his plea for cooperation an easy wish.

Here’s what he says about the importance of political cooperation: “What we are seeing, what’s being challenged, are the foundational principles of democracy itself. The notion that all citizens have a right to freely participate in selecting who governs them; the notion that votes will be counted and the party that gets more votes wins; that losers concede, power is transferred peacefully, that the winners don’t abuse the machinery of government to punish the losers.

“ … One of humanity’s greatest achievements in the modern era has been the recognition that diverse sets of people need to be represented in government.  …We’re going to have to figure out how to live together, or we will destroy each other.”

Some may consider it a good tightrope speech. Others may think he can’t get the best of both worlds.

November 17, 2022: The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is expected to be watched by some 5 billion people from all across the globe, and that will make new viewership records.

That figure has been provided by FIFA President Gianni Infantino so we take his word for it. The number will surpass 3.5 billion who watched the 2018 tournament in Russia (on television alone) and who amounted to more than half of the global population in those days.

For Russia’s World Cup, FIFA estimated that more than one billion people watched the final between France and Croatia. On average, reports say the live audience hovered around 517 million viewers.

In the previous two World Cup finals, some 531 million watched Spain defeat the Netherlands in extra time in 2010. Four years later, Argentina and Germany played before a TV crowd of about 562 million.

It is said that 652 million people, which was around one fifth of total population of the world at the time, watched the live broadcast of the Apollo 11 Moon landing on July 20, 1969. (If it’s a hoax as some claim, it’s a hoax that convinced 652 million live audience.)

Sixteen years after the moon, the original Live Aid concert on July 13, 1985 was watched by an estimated 1.9 billion across 150 countries.

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games opening ceremony was described as a sports event with the highest numbers in viewership or around 593 million for TV and a lot more across all new platforms.

Data reported by www.worldsoccertalk.com , www.fifa.com and www.thepeninsulaqatar.com

November 16, 2022: American Democrats are acting like an overwhelmingly underdog football team celebrating a 1-0 loss. The Republicans, meanwhile, are thinking that the results of the midterm elections, which actually showed they are doing better, feel like a defeat.

Donald Trump’s announcement of a presidential bid has come against that acrimonious backdrop. Expectations have been significantly lowered in the Democratic camp, which is intriguingly relieved that they would potentially lose the House of Representatives only. They have failed to take into account one crucial fact, which is that the narrow Senate escape and the slipping away of the lower chamber have more to do with deepening political divide than anti-incumbent feelings and virtually half of the country dismissed President Joe Biden’s warning that America’s democracy was at stake in these elections.

The Democrats are in effect highlighting the Republicans’ imminent “slim” control of the House of Representatives but do not as much publicise the fact that the Democratic control of the Senate is also slim.

As for the Republicans, the so-near-yet-so-far Senate outcome also has more to do with the deepening divide than usual swings of voters’ decisions. People who voted against them did not do so preparing to possibly vote for them next time. A vast majority of them would vote Democratic again come what may because Biden’s warning was sinking in.

In other words, the Democrats should be worried that the divide down the middle is still glaring in spite of Biden’s unprecedented warning, whereas the Republicans must realise that a big number of Americans think of them as democracy’s great threat thanks largely to him. Trump is upbeat and the Democrats are upbeat, publicly at least. Truth is that both camps are not supposed to feel that way.

November 15, 2022: Nothing says “Diplomacy is absurd” better than the very recent grip-and-grin photo of the two men whose rivalry can make life very miserable for almost 8 billion other people.

It was taken hours ago in Indonesia and news reports say their talks were nothing to smile about. They were discussing issues that could lead to a war between their countries and spread throughout the world, to be exact.

Cave men and future humans hundreds of years from now alike would marvel at the duo’s ability to act like old friends at a reunion while they are in fact the planet’s highest-profile enemies who threaten each other with war drills and crippling trade sanctions.

Diplomacy, they say, is the art of saying “Nice doggie” until you can find a rock. That was meant to be a joke, but Joe Biden and Xi Jinping, in that photo at least, try their best to make you think really hard about it.

November 14, 2022: To some, getting to watch key international football live and free must be guaranteed. To others, they will never understand why it is so important, especially when real economic sufferings are more prevalent than ever and they must be the top priority of state money.

Debate and newspapers’ editorials on whether taxpayers’ money should be used to allow live broadcast of a sport event that many Thais don’t care about can be “cut and paste.” It happened before every World Cup and every Euro tournaments and it’s happening now. Arguments for and against are basically the same.

Several sport commentators say, quite rightly, that Thai football fans are spoiled, and the concept of pay per view is very unpopular when it comes to the World Cup. Thanks to what was done in the past, those fans consider it a government “duty” to provide a live broadcast of the event. This kind of thinking even encompasses ideological differences in politics. A politician can bash a submarine budget all he or she likes but it will take a lot more courage to speak against a World Cup broadcast subsidy in Parliament.

Never mind that the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission is sharing the heat now. And never mind that much has to do with the generosity _ or lack thereof _ of the private sector. A lack of broadcast will put the government on the spot. Consequences of no World Cup live broadcast could be direr than announcing that they would not be the next phase of the “Half-Half” programme.

November 13, 2022: After Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat shoned in Bangkok’s recent popularity survey, it’s Pheu Thai star Paetongtarn Shinawatra’s turn when it comes to Thailand’s central provinces.

But equally interesting in on-going NIDA popularity polls is Prayut Chan-o-cha’s refusal to go into oblivion. In fact, whereas Paetongtarn was supported by 24.18% of 2,002 Thais living in the central region who were asked who they wanted to see as the next prime minister, Prayut breathed down Pita’s neck at 16.23% versus 16.73%. This latest NIDA survey took place early this month.

Last month, a NIDA survey of 2,000 Bangkok residents gave Pita a 20.40% support. He was followed by Prayut Chan-o-cha who received 15.20%, while Paetongtarn was trailing the prime minister closely at 14.10%.

An “undecided” group was also remarkable, coming fourth at 13.54%. It was also fourth (12.20%) in last month’s survey.

November 12, 2022: If newspaper headlines go different ways regarding the Palang Pracharath Party’s stance on whom it will nominate as the next prime minister, don’t criticise them.

It’s because if party leader Prawit Wongsuwan’s latest statement on the topic has to be interpreted, it will be the same as predicting the outcome of a coin toss. Asked who Palang Pracharath will support as the next prime minister, he said the party’s board has not formally decided. Asked if it would be him, he said he was the party leader who wouldn’t go against party members’ wishes. Asked if it would be Prayut again, he said: “Don’t worry. Don’t worry.”

On whether Prayut would join and lead another party going into the next election, he said: “It seems this question is for him, not me. For us, there’s no problem.”

Some newspapers will highlight one thing, though: His remark that Prayut became prime minister after the last general election because Palang Pracharath was a leading backer.

On whether Palang Pracharath will experience a Democrat situation in which party members keep defecting, Prawit said: “Don’t ask me that, because nobody is going. I won’t let them go to begin with.”

November 11, 2022: It took just over one day for US authorities to publicise results of more than 90% of midterm elections, but it has taken longer concerning the remaining outcomes.

If one party was winning convincingly when 90% of the votes had been counted, there should not be any problem. When the remaining “uncounted votes” determine who control the Congress, the long counts would not satisfy many people. To what extent is a major question.

As this is being written, the Republicans need two more Senate seats as opposed to the Democrats’ three to control the chamber. As for the House of Representatives, the Republicans need 7 compared with the Democrats’ 20. (the numbers can change at any moment.)

But despite the known results seeming to confirm America’s great political divide, pro-Biden media have described the elections as a blow to “election deniers” _ the term used to discredit the politicians who questioned the Trump-Biden presidential race outcome two years ago.

Over the past two days, however, the counting had been achingly slow.

Already, the pro-government media have talked about “baseless suggestions” and quoted election officials as calling for patience and “dispelling misinformation.” To be fair, you can’t blame the Republicans for being restless and suspicious.

Whatever is happening, however, may sow seeds for future troubles. As they say, “the sooner, the better.”

10, 2022: US President Joe Biden is taking a “victory lap” even as midterm election results, not totally completed yet, are unmistakably confirming a great political divide and the weakening of the Democratic rule.

His now-famous, post-election statement that the feared “giant red wave (A Republican convincing or massive triumph) didn’t happen” spoke volumes about the country’s dangerous polarisation and his and his party’s changing positions, in fact. That he and Democratic-leaning Americans view that as good news only showed that they had expected something worse and would take a divided congress going into the elections.

Truth is the national rift is obvious, underlined by the electoral results. It wasn’t a normal anti-incumbent phenomenon. The elections were being painted as a moment of truth. They were taking place amid the president’s unambiguous, clear-cut and very loud message that Americans had to choose between democracy and the Republicans. It was arguably the strongest “Us or them” since 9/11.

That more or less half of the country didn’t believe him was probably a giant red wave that he has failed to see.

November 9, 2022: It depends on how you see it. Either America’s midterm elections are aggravating the divide, or they are trying to produce the kind of reasonable democracy, and desperately so.

The presidential race is what makes the whole system an absurdity. Midterm elections are offshoots of that ultimate contest, and while they could have helped democracy, they are instead rendered troublesome because the presidency is cocooned in a generally-acceptable yet weird concept.

Results of the midterm elections are so far so good, providing what democracy really needs _ checks and balances and a warning to the powers-that-be that if they can’t serve, others are always ready to step up. It makes perfect sense until it comes to the fact that one party can technically snatch the all-too-powerful presidency if he or she beats the rival by just a hundred votes or fewer.

Turmoil or chaos starts from there. There is no way a country whose parliamentary opposition is a few votes away from being in charge of the entire administrative mechanism can find peace. That’s why what looks like a good result in America’s midterm elections is being painted as bad news for the country. That’s why the Capitol “riot” happened. That’s why voting in America has become a dangerous moment instead of a “cleansing” tool that can set a peaceful and prosperous path for the country. That’s why a large number of Americans are losing faith in their democracy. That’s why certain media figures have long faces on camera whereas they should have celebrated the beauty of strong checks and balances emerging from the midterm elections.

As long as the country does not readjust the presidential powers, particularly how the elected leader forms the working team or formulates policies, and as long as the losses are discarded no matter how small the margins are, the troubles mentioned above will become more and more frequent.

While Senate and House of Representatives elections allow parties to “share”, which is the fundamental concept of democracy, the presidential election does not.

November 8, 2022: Joe Biden and Donald Trump closed off their parties’ electoral campaigns by thrashing each other’s idea of democracy. The future of a political system followed by much of the world is ultimately at stake, not, as proclaimed generally, the US congress.

Results will be known shortly, and they are likely to, in the words of CNN, “cement [America’s] divides rather than promote unity.” Gone are the days when “elections [were] cleansing moments setting the country on a fresh path powered by people freely choosing their leaders. …”

That is what’s truly at stake _ the beauty of elections or, specifically, their ability to end conflicts peacefully so that everyone can start harmoniously anew. The first American votes since the Capitol “riot” are posing a far bigger question than who will dominate the Congress, which the Republicans and Democrats have taken turn in controlling anyway.

November 7, 2022: The US president, standing toe to toe with his predecessor, could be right on one thing: America’s midterm election results this week may determine how the country goes in the next 20 years.

The Republicans want to wrestle both the House of Representatives and Senate from Democratic control, and winning one chamber would severely hinder President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. That’s primarily why Biden has told voters on the eve of the elections that they were choosing two different versions of America.

But Donald Trump’s future could depend on the midterm outcomes as well. He has been giving hints _ tongue-in-cheek or else _ about running for president again in 2024. Bad results this week would significantly dampen his prospects.

He is accusing Biden of leading the country toward communism. The counter allegation is that Trump is democracy’s great threat. In effect, each is saying that if anything happens to America’s democracy, the other must take the blame.

November 6, 2022: Good news is that the social media make it easier to fall in love; bad news is that such love can rob you blind.

The Thai police call it “Romance Hybrid Scam”. They say it is spreading alarmingly targetting naïve social media users who are tricked into becoming head over heels and trusting the other side enough to “co-invest” heavily with them.

The bad guys mix Ponzi scheme characteristics with patience and the popular social media trend of using fake or photoshopped avatars. Victims never really meet the other side, who, after a while, often begin by asking them to try investing small amounts for great dividends, which are actually wired back. When trust and love build to a desired point, big investments are suggested.

You wouldn’t transfer a lot of money to someone you only know online, would you? That’s exactly why “romance” is a big part of the scam. People do stupid things when they are in love.

Thousands of Thais have filed charges. Damage since the beginning of this year is approaching Bt1 billion. Last month alone, it was Bt150 million, suggesting the scam is working and spreading.

November 5, 2022: A popular anti-government protest leader commanding the support of millions and accusing America of siding with his opponents and engineering his earlier removal from power appears to be going against the tide in today’s world.

Apart from that, Pakistan’s boiling politics sounds very similar to that of, say, Thailand, showcasing angry political masses trying to fill the capital with heated protests., “impossible” political demands blending with economic hardships, and domestic politics that is getting intertwined with diplomatic relationships with Washington, Moscow and Beijing.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has been shot in the leg and is vowing to resume his protest march to Islamabad after recovering from the  “assassination attempt”. The attack seems to have boosted his already-big campaign against the government which he implied came to power through US interferences.

In places like Thailand or Hong Kong, the US-related accusation appears to go the other way. All claims regarding America, denied by Washington, can be false, but they are interesting all the same.

November 4, 2022: America’s midterm elections are taking place next week against a fearful backdrop regarding the country’s state of democracy. Here are the gist of what some American experts are saying:

“Every year for the last 20 years I have thought that this is as bad as it can possibly get. And then somehow it manages to get worse. So, I’ve given up,” said Gerald Gamm, a political science professor at the University of Rochester.

His two colleagues are no less pessimistic. According to the director of the university’s Democracy Centre, the fundamental problem is not the weakening of people’s commitment to democracy as an ideal, but the lack of an essential feature of any democracy, or the will to accept outcome of balloting to be exact.

Another political scientist at the university noted that countries are slipping away from certain fundamental democratic values although their systems are still called democratic in general, and that’s a bad sign for America. The Philippines, Poland, Hungary, Brazil, India and Turkey are in such situations, and “That’s a lot of people.” As for the United States, trouble is looming and it will turn very critical if there are more aggressive or belligerent campaigns against electoral outcomes.

November 3, 2022: How free should Thais be regarding cannabis and liquor production, consumption and commercialisation? It’s a complicated question made a lot more complicated by cutthroat, musical chair politics.

On cannabis, the parliamentary opposition, which may gain power after the next general election, has apparently decried “imprudence.” On liquor, it’s the government’s turn to call for acceptable standards and slower-but-surer cautious approach.

Pheu Thai doesn’t want the Bhumjaithai Party to “mislead” the public for political gains when it comes to cannabis “legalisation”. Another key opposition party, Move Forward, is saying that it’s being wrong-footed trying to promote a liberal liquor policy.

The government, meanwhile, has backed Bhumjaithai’s “leap of faith” on cannabis but does not appear to think similarly when Move Forward’s liquor bill is concerned.

It makes ones wonder how creative MPs on both sides of the aisle have to be if, some day, they have to debate cannabis and liquor bills back to back.

November 2, 2022: Has Thammanat Prompao met Thaksin Shinawatra in Dubai? The question has renewed speculation regarding who the former would ally himself with after the next general election.

The odd man out in the divided Thai political landscape will likely remain so for a long time. While he can logistically help the side he is on enormously, he can taint it politically to no end. One thing is for sure: If Pheu Thai becomes the next government coalition leader, it cannot give him a Cabinet post. Less certain is what the Palang Pracharath Party, in an unlikely scenario of it having a big say in the formation of the post-election Cabinet, plans to do with him if he and Palang Pracharath leader Prawit Wongsuwan are firmly re-united.

Prawit today has dismissed two important questions: Do you know if Thammanat met Thaksin in Dubai? Will your party re-embrace Thammanat? (“Go ask him” was Prawit’s reply to the first one, and he just walked away when asked the second one.)

One wrong answer about Thai Economic Party chieftain Thammanat would be another nail in the Palang Pracharath coffin comes the next election. It will also be tough for the other side, which used to censure him and tumultuously scrutinise his background.

November 1, 2022: A small section of the social media users is saying that some unwanted activities of young people contributed more or less to the Itaewon tragedy, an accusation that many view as extreme disrespect for the lives lost and families of the victims as well as everyone who was there on that night.

In an article, a journalist pointed out that many victims just finished exams, an occasion where they justifiably wanted to celebrate, whereas others were love birds who wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, or friends who were just happy to be in the company of other friends. Those who escaped death and injury were the same. Everyone who was there that night was the same, the article said.

Rumours about drug use or panic-triggering pranks only insulted the people who took part in the ill-fated celebration, many of whom never came home, the article said, adding that such rumours were spreading on the social media worldwide.

The only way to cope with the tragedy, the article concluded, was sticking together and giving the victims, their families, relatives and friends unconditioned sympathy and condolences. Blaming part of it on youngsters’ behaviours is the exact opposite of such a solution, the article said.



Daily updates of local and international events by Tulsathit Taptim