11 July 2024

August 31, 2021: Never mind the “hectic, humiliating but sometimes heroic” plastered here and there in western reports of the final hours of America’s troop pullout from Afghanistan, about 10 members of one Afghan family, including seven children, have been killed in a US drone attack just before the last US aircraft lifted off from Kabul.

The killings were confirmed by CNN. The dead, those killed before them, and millions of displaced Afghans are the true casualties and genuine consequences of the longest US war, and “hectic” or “humiliation” or “heroism” are just political words used to describe or spin the final moment of something that many would find absurd. Wars are actually about blood, tears and separation. Their impacts on politicians’ careers are in fact sidebars, and coffins arriving on US soil draped in US flag do not even tell half the story.

The drone strike in a residential neighbourhood was purportedly in response to an airport terror attack. “We will hunt you down”, US President Joe Biden had vowed after the airport incident, eerily echoing what Washington said immediately after 9/11. The innocent killed in the drone mission, with the two youngest victims reported to be two years old, typified the whole war _ the origin, the casualties and the incomprehensibility.

Hopefully, such killings will be the last of the kind.

August 30, 2021: Politics, anywhere on earth, can dwell on issues far away from what humans really need the most to live. The coronavirus, for all its “demonic” abilities, is apparently resetting the priorities throughout its devastating path.

When countries run out of oxygen for severely-ill COVID-19 patients, nothing else matters. And when even the United States is feeling alarms, poorer countries like Thailand must be extremely on full alert. Thailand’s Parliament, set to censure the government on its handling of the pandemic, probably should play the blame game less and focus more on how the country should prepare itself on this fundamental aspect.

Hospitals in parts of America’s south are being threatened with a varying degrees of oxygen shortage. Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Louisiana are reported to be struggling with oxygen scarcity. Some are at risk of having to use their reserve supply while the others are staring at imminent and total depletion.

The sight of sick people not having hospital beds is sad enough. Patients gasping for air as there is not enough oxygen to help them or prolong their lives is not only sadder, but also disastrous politically.

August 29, 2021: Many people are aware of it, but quite a number of others are still not. The face mask, the best-known, day-to-day protection against the coronavirus, can also be a big, silent danger.

People use their bare hands to adjust it when it slips from their noses, to pull it down to their chins when they want to sip a coffee, to speak to someone or at meeting, or remove it when they arrive at the “safety” of their homes.

Before they do that, the front cover of the mask absorbed or gathered everything in the air and some of the “everything” can be very dangerous, and it can go to the hands. The hands can go to the eyes, the noses or the ears. The rest is history. Maybe the innocent but dangerous handling of the mask can help explain why cases are spiking despite governments “doing everything.”

One message at Thai vaccine centres is: Don’t touch the front cover of the mask. Even if you are aware of that, wash your hands frequently because you may have subconsciously done so at any time. The strings hooking the mask to the ears are a safer bet, but even they may not be totally safe, especially if you go outside.

Change the “paper” mask everyday. Boil the “cloth” one everyday. Wash your hand every time you touch it or remove it. YouTubers or TV personalities who adjust their masks all the time must be extra careful.

August 28, 2021: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has hinted on his Facebook that more rules and restrictions related to COVID-19 could be relaxed as his government’s focus might shift further from battling the coronavirus outright to “living with it”.

He said the signs regarding case numbers showed improvement giving the government more room to consider returning Thailand to certain ways of life that would help the struggling economy.

With “improvement” in infection numbers in fact minimal, the prime minister’s mentioning of that aspect is not as important as his cautious revelation that the government is serious about “Smart Control and Living with COVID-19”, an agenda which he said involved social and business activities resuming with extremely careful approaches like adjusting industrial working methods and environments.

On vaccines, he said a lot more is coming. The prime minister also urged Thais to consider that “anyone you meet can be carriers” so the “DMHT” (Distancing, Mask wearing, Hand washing, and Testing) measure must intensify with full collaboration between the public and authorities.

August 27, 2021: Next week’s no-confidence debate will likely do little when the prime minister’s parliamentary status is concerned, but how much political impact it can generate depends on how the opposition can capitalise on growing anti-incumbent feelings magnified by COVID-19, analysts say.

It will not possibly be an information-laden censure,  unlike most previous ones. The opposition will have a chance of striking the right chord by simply talking about public hardships, anxiety and frustration. The final votes will not even scratch the surface in terms of parliamentary status quo, but good speeches will go a long way toward further eroding public trust in the government.

But the opposition is not going into the battle without its own strategic problems. Pheu Thai and Move Forward are not seeing eye to eye on other Cabinet targets. There have been reports that selection of targets has underlined both parties’ mutual mistrust. To cut a long story short, Move Forward reportedly suspects that Pheu Thai and ruling Palang Pracharath would be conspiring on charter amendment that might shrink the second-biggest opposition party after the next election.

And if the goal is to soften Prayut up, why are a few others targeted as well? Unless the opposition has earth-shattering evidence against them, the random bombardment could waste its time and unnecessarily draw fire from the prime minister and maybe the public health minister.

Last but not least, this censure apparently needs eloquence the most, and this opposition bloc, particularly the biggest party Pheu Thai, cannot boast it has plenty of brilliant speakers.

August 26, 2021: The current uproar over police brutality against narcotics suspects has brought back some harsh memories that Thaksin Shinawatra will find difficult to talk about in his next Clubhouse participation.

While the senior policeman involved in the present scandal has been at the centre of online condemnation, many internet accounts have mentioned that “injustice” brought about by the police took place when Thaksin was prime minister, too, and the issue was well documented.

Thaksin’s government launched the internationally-infamous “war on drugs” in early 2000s during which thousands of extrajudicial killings were a major outcome. In one investigation years later, when Thaksin’s power was waning, it was found that more than half of those killed had no connection whatsoever to the drug trade.

Thaksin’s campaign triggered a major human rights outcry, in Thailand and abroad. It was a big dent during his reign in addition to charges related to fatal treatment of southern suspects and rampant business conflicts of interests.

With many key rivals of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha being supporters of Thaksin, half-hearted criticism can be expected from them when it comes to the all-important issue of human rights of criminal suspects, whether they are officially implicated or secretly blacklisted. This is the biggest negative of political divide, which forces many people to judge moral, ethical or legal issues based on their political or ideological leanings, making it extremely hard to combat corruption and create genuine social equality.

August 25, 2021: All humans have to do is look back just a couple of months before deciding if they should take heart in signs that the current coronavirus wave seems to be “plateauing.”

In its matter-of-factly report, the World Health Organisation said this week that the number of new cases reported globally “seems to be plateauing”. Some 4.5 million new cases and 68,000 deaths were documented worldwide last week, just a slight increase from the more than 4.4 million cases and 66,000 deaths reported in the prior week.

That seemed to be the good news. The bad news is that the world had seen a plateauing in global cases in May, but fresh outbreaks ensued, driven by formidable Delta. The past two months saw cases skyrocketing anew in America and overwhelming many places where the virus had been thought to be powerless, with Thailand being a prime example.
After Delta, variants have continued to emerge and be found, but none has been as dangerous and powerful. Yet signs that the virus is trying to mutate in an attempt to beat the vaccines are unmistakably there.

August 24, 2021: China and the United States are going in opposite directions as far as Delta is concerned, which means the American president may go into mid-term congressional election next year with his hands tied and the Republicans revitalised.

Two big pieces of bad news have been delivered to Joe Biden these past two days. Firstly, the new coronavirus surge, which has upped American’s average infection number to 150,000, could go on for months, hampering social, political and economic moods through a good part of next year while increasing anti-incumbent feelings potentially enormously. Secondly, China, Washington’s ultimate international “rival”, has for the first time since July reported no new COVID-19 cases.

The prolonged local gloom is predicted by America’s top and respected health expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, who does not see a significant improvement many months from now. Divisive politics associated with the pandemic has been unprecedented already and signs are that it will only increase before the mid-term election, especially if Fauci’s prediction comes true. Americans are so divided that ex-president Donald Trump was booed by his own crowds when talking favourably, albeit lukewarmly, about vaccines.

China strolling through the pandemic despite a political system maligned by the United States and vaccines questioned by western commercial “propaganda” will increase pressure on Biden drastically.

August 23, 2021: Some family members have got separated and ended up in different countries, while those crowding the airport and nearby areas are risking being stranded and blacklisted. To top it off, the chaos does not involve a far larger number of Afghans already in refugee camps outside the country due to the war that the Taliban seem to have won for now.

The true extent of the genuine casualties of war is still not conclusive, obviously under-reported as coverage of hectic evacuations focuses on the current “terror” of the Taliban retaking control rather than what happened before the American pullout. It is estimated that the war which started after the 9/11 attacks has displaced 3.5 million Afghans internally. Even in the few years before the Taliban return, hundreds of thousands of Afghans were forced to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.

UN figures for 2020 have yielded some surprises. Poor as it is, Pakistan handled the biggest number of Afghan refugees last year, 1,450,000. Iran, always criticised by the West on humanitarian grounds, accommodated 780,000, coming second. Germany was the most generous western country, sheltering 181,100. Indonesia came 15th, admitting 7,600 refugees.

There was no United States name in the top 15. The Biden administration has not announced the exact number of Afghans it would allow in after the withdrawal.

America is sending transport aircraft to help extend the scope evacuations and speed them up. England, 12th on the refugee accommodation list, is asking America to delay the complete withdrawal to restore some sort of order at the chaotic airport. Still, most signals are that when push comes to shove, it’s going to be a “White first” final moment. There are realistic chances that the majority of Afghans crowding the airport and nearby areas will never be able to leave. In front of them are western policies more complicated than the war itself, and behind them is the Taliban whom they are made to fear, justly or not.

August 22, 2021: Basically everything, from lowered guards to insufficient vaccines to poor management to the devastating ability of Delta. The NIDA poll on what the Thai public think about the present COVID-19 spread in the country shows a mixture of fear, frustration and understanding.

Those who blamed complacency and inadequate supplies of vaccines are the biggest groups that were equal in size (37.75% each). About 36% thought vaccination in Thailand is very slow. More than 25% believed halfhearted lockdowns (measures that were too light) allowed the scary spread. More than 21% pointed their fingers at Delta’s formidability.

Almost 13% felt that the problems concerning illegal labour from neighbouring countries were continuing and were a major factor in the outbreak. Nearly 11% saw the new waves worldwide as a main cause that made the Thai situation “unavoidable.” More than 10% said rises were a result of more thorough and more frequent tests. Less than 1 % believed vaccines being used were ineffective.

The poll covered 1,314 Thais and was conducted last week.

August 21, 2021: Don’t believe everything you’ve read, seen or heard about the Taliban, according to an opinion piece in an English-language newspaper in a rare show of sympathy toward the “notorious” militants in power in Afghanistan.

Pictures of airport chaos, stories about fearful Afghans fleeing their country, interviews of frightened women and even comments criticising the Americans for pulling their troops out too soon are flooding the western media but they are all part of the plan, said the article written by regular columnist Inam Ul Haque in Pakistan’s The Express Tribune. The fleeing, attempts to flee and fears are real, he admitted, but he argued that they are a result of years of thought manipulations.

With anti-Taliban content dominating every screen everywhere you look, it’s a very rare article indeed, but the author insisted that opinions being formed against the Taliban could be traced to a conspiracy of those who never set foot in Afghanistan.

“It is ironic to see the mushrooming of Taliban and Afghan experts who _ sitting thousands of miles away _ fill the TV screens ubiquitously. They may not speak a word of Pashto or Darri; may not have a clue of the Afghan culture and history; and may never have visited Afghanistan and/or interacted with the common Afghans; but if they have access to the TV channels, they are good to go,” the article said.

“…The dominant media have for so long harped on (anti-Taliban) themes that even urbanite Afghans believe in their contorted narratives. This pervasive media manipulation has led to a totally unwarranted human crisis …”

August 20, 2021: If you have already received two vaccine shots, consider this scenario, mooted by the World Health Organisation in its desperate attempt to block the booster rush now almost in full swing:

Your ship has capsized. You have already worn two lifejackets and are holding another one in your hand. Would you wear it now or would you give it to a drowning man in front of you, he who doesn’t have any lifejacket on?

The whole booster shot controversy, according to Dr Mike Ryan, the director of the WHO’s health emergency programme, is pretty much that. “We are planning to hand out extra lifejackets to people who already have lifejackets, while we’re leaving other people to drown without a single lifejacket,” the official has said.

The current scramble is amazing, with rich countries booking and stockpiling vaccines to speed up the WHO’s prophecy of doom. The agency had warned that booster, or the third shot, is a very bad idea unless numerous poor people have received at least the first jab. With the floodgate opening, the WHO has repeated its warning this week, even before US authorities announced all vaccinated Americans would be eligible to receive booster doses.

August 19, 2021: Airport chaos may have frightened the rest of the world, but the Taliban themselves were also in awe once in Kabul.

AP has reported that capitalism and Taliban worldview are colliding big time as the fighters familiar with frugal lifestyle with probably disdain for materialism or “unfair” distribution of wealth entered their country’s capital after two decades of American rule and thus “modernisation.”

Some Taliban troopers were reported by AP to be awestruck at the sights of tall, luxurious buildings and shops that have sprouted up in Kabul during the hardline group’s absence.

The AP story has gone viral, and one website that picked it up summed it up nicely, saying that even the toughest, most medieval militants can marvel at wonders of capitalism.

August 18, 2021: Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has called for parliamentary investigation into the case of a man injured by a live bullet during a protest over the weekend, but the politician’s hashtag saying “police kill a citizen” probably underlines the currently-high sensitivity of the Thai political showdown.

That nobody has died from street violence (as of now), that police have denied using live bullets to quell protests, and that it is still unclear where the bullet that critically wounded the young man receiving intensive medical treatment actually came from, the hashtag accusing police of murdering a Thai citizen has sparked some criticism although Thanathorn’s call for a parliamentary probe appeared a sensible thing.

In the national, political context, however, whatever the origin of the shot, it only points to one thing. Whether it came from the police or somebody else, the bullet unmistakably means Thailand’s street turmoil is entering a new, dangerous and fragile stage.

August 17, 2021: Don’t let the cartoons in it fool you. “Born on 9/11” is not for kids and contains serious content that goes against everything the world has known and is being refreshed about Afghanistan’s controversial group now in control of the country in turmoil.

While the great majority of the world believes the Taliban was aiding 9/11 villains, the al-Qaeda, and that was why the former was dislodged from power after the World Trade Center terror some two decades ago, the makers of “Born on 9/11” are seeking to challenge that narrative through fictional and comic characters.

The US non-believers, calling themselves “Truthers”, have all but failed in other approaches and their legal campaigns have been progressing at a snail’s pace, if not standing still entirely. So, they hope the graphic novel could make some difference. Telling a fictional story of a young man who “drew the first breath while his father (a firefighter) was drawing his last”, the book is being launched as America is prepared to mark another anniversary of 9/11.

August, 16, 2021: The parliamentary opposition led by the Pheu Thai Party has shown strong indications to attack the Prayut government over the rampaging coronavirus and the administration’s inability to deliver on its promises of quick, abundant and equally distributed vaccines.

There are other issues in the fresh, newly-submitted censure motion, but COVID-19 will almost certainly dominate the opposition’s campaign, as the public health crisis involves the embattled prime minister directly and has put many things on hold which could have been used against other ministers in normal times.

On the one hand, the government can deflect vague charges on inadequacy of vaccines to foreign factors. On the other hands, solid evidence of corruption or mismanagement regarding vaccines can deal heavy, if not knock-out, blows.

August 15, 2021: America celebrated the Fourth of July with pride over a big progress in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and the withdrawal from Afghanistan was confirmed with a sense of dignity, a symbol of the return of peace, while Thailand was being very scared of an infection number, which was below 6,000.

China was not even in the COVID-19 conversation at the time. England’s plan to “reopen” itself added to many people’s feelings that the virus must be on the back foot. Priorities shifted and got mixed up badly as human beings turned to other “important” things.

Today, the world is scrambling for the third vaccine shot and the Taliban militants are besieging Kabul, which if fallen could return Afghanistan to the pre-9/11 days.

Human wars _ open or “cold” or “proxy” _ have the biggest beneficiary in the coronavirus. They also can divert attention from another major natural issue, the climate, which is on literally on fire in some places and simmering in others. The speed of change can be quicker from now on if, no pun intended, man does not change.

August 14, 2021: Rising numbers of COVID-19 cases have forced America to approve drugmakers’, and some scared citizens’, demands for the third shot of the vaccines.

This is despite the World Health Organisation’s earnest plea for a delay in the implementation of “booster doses” due to fears that demands for vaccines will skyrocket and thus aggravate the “hoarding” problem already rampant among rich countries. Billions of people around the world are said to still be waiting for their first shots.

The US authorities had apparently resisted local vaccine makers’ attempt to promote a booster shot to prevent immunity from waning among two-shot recipients. The WHO viewed the companies’ move with suspicion and strongly called for a delay until the majority of the world has received at least the first shot. However, the US Food and Drug Administration has this week amended rules which would allow additional doses for immunocompromised individuals.

That could open a floodgate that is likely to aggravate the vaccine imbalance around the globe. Rich countries have been reported to be purchasing vaccines in view of adding the third shot for citizens who have already been given two.

August 13: 2021: It’s how you look at it. “Breakthrough infections” in America can be scary to some and reassuring to others.

The US government’s narrative is that such cases are rare, and given the large-scale vaccine rollouts in the United States, they were supposed to happen anyway. As of early August, more than 134 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, and only 0.001% of them have died from the coronavirus, many US media outlets reported.

The percentage can make anyone rest assured. But when 0.001% is translated into numbers, it’s 1,507. Saying that 1,507 people have died after having received two shots in America is quite different from saying 0.001% of the fully-inoculated have suffered from fatal breakthrough infections, isn’t it?

On “hospitalizations”, fewer than 0.005% of the fully-vaccinated have been sent to hospitals. Again, it’s a very small percentage that can be ignored. But again, when the percentage is made into numbers, it’s 7,101.

The numbers of 1,507 deaths and 7,101 infections can make many countries uncomfortable, whether they concern the fully-vaccinated or totally unvaccinated. But no matter how the numbers and percentages are looked at, they all show one thing: The coronavirus is fearlessly hitting human fortresses and will continue to do so.

Make no mistake, vaccines are still the best way to go. And also make no mistake, breakthrough cases are happening elsewhere, too.

August 12, 2021: If there are such things as diplomatic love letters, the new Chinese ambassador to Thailand has written one.

Who says Chinese diplomats are only capable of writing strongly-worded messages for the Americans? The ambassador, Han Zhiqiang, has made Thailand look like a woman he’s courting, with a statement on the embassy’s website pledging all kinds of support, understanding and the will to grow old together.

Here’s part of it: “China and Thailand are one family. Our two countries are geographically proximate, culturally interconnected, blood-lined, and philosophically interlinked. The two countries enjoy profound historical linkages for thousands of years, solid bonds of interest for mutual benefit and win-win outcomes, and tremendous potentials for development. In the 46 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, China and Thailand have been working and moving forward in togetherness, with strategic mutual trust continuously deepened, pragmatic cooperation rapidly expanded, and people-to-people amity increasingly strengthened.”

It went on to list support _ past, present and the future. The message is that “I’m someone who believes in you” and “You will get through this.” He calls his coming to Thailand “a glorious mission with great significance.”

In case you want to read the full message, click here 

With donated American vaccines coming thick and fast along with financial support as well, maybe COVID-19-ravaged Thailand, the object of superpowers’ affections, can play hard to get a little.

August 11, 2021: Politically speaking, as long as injuries or deaths do not occur on the protest side, the powers-that-be would not totally mind extreme street activists going rogue. Here is the key reason why.

As the government is facing growing doubts from some of its own supporters regarding the handling of the COVID-19 crisis, scenes of burned police vehicles, injured policemen, rude-language graffiti and police booths on fire may just help swing them back to the fold.

It doesn’t matter how extremists on both sides of the national divide regard the August 10 violence, because their opinions are deep-rooted and can’t be changed anyway. (Even news outlets whose political prejudices are supposed to be mild are reporting August 10 differently, influenced by their ideological leanings.) It’s the doubters who can be swung either way that counts.

Political street battles during normal times are one thing, but those taking place amid raging COVID-19 are quite another.

August 10, 2021: Despite the World Health Organisation’s warning of the possibility of renewed vaccine hoarding, rich countries have started stockpiling doses to be used as immunity boosters for the already inoculated people.

Fears of Delta are driving demands, hence the hoarding, but the scrambling for the third doses is also a result of countries and companies trying to discredit rival vaccines.

The situation is very complex and somewhat ironic. While all eyes are on America where resurgent numbers don’t explain the abundance of “good” vaccines and the high percentage of vaccinated people, rising infections in the country has been blamed by Washington almost totally on divisive politics. China, where infection numbers were minuscule, let alone deaths, is being accused of covering up some information and its vaccines are not as favoured in a large part of the world.

Problems are going to intensify because preferable vaccines are being stocked up by rich countries as boosters. This is despite reports that in Israel, more than a dozen booster-shot receivers have been diagnosed with COVID-19. “Breakthrough infections”, a term normally used to describe cases found among people who have received two jabs, are also on the rise. America is no exception. In fact, it was Pfizer which first floated the booster idea.

Rich countries are rushing to buy additional doses for their fully-vaccinated people. Germany, following Israel’s example, said this week it would begin providing booster shots to some “high-risk” citizens. France, Russia and Hungary are doing the same. England, which has lifted restrictions to the dismay of much of the world, has reportedly bought 60 million extra Pfizer vaccine doses, reasoning that some vulnerable people might need third shots.

Meanwhile, billions of people in the rest of the world are still waiting for their first doses.

August 9, 2021: Get your keyboard ready, everyone. According to his son, Thaksin Shinawatra’s personal love of “two-way communications” will soon materialise in the form of online contact in which anyone can talk to him directly.

“Thaksinofficial” will be the name of that online channel, apparently part of the ousted leader’s efforts to make his presence increasingly felt at a time when Thailand is battling COVID-19.

Panthongtae Shinawatra said in his Facebook that Thaksin always loved to talk to the Thai public and that was underlined by his weekly meet-the-people broadcast organised while he was prime minister. He loved to listen to how the people were feeling and how they were doing, so sometimes he picked up the phone himself to listen to public complaints, Panthongtae said.

His Clubhouse activities stemmed from the love of two-way communications, the young Shinawatra added.

Panthongtae said because of that personal philosophy, Thaksin would make himself accessible to all Thais and everybody else very soon through “Thaksinofficial”.

“Although my father doesn’t have any (government) position at the moment, he wants to help Thailand solve a big crisis because he has updated himself and learning new things all the time,” Panthongtae said. According to him, Thaksin believes in “usefulness of public opinions” which could lead to crystallised solutions.

August 8, 2021: With COVID-19 cases surging terrifyingly in Florida, political logic should have had the career path of its governor badly threatened.

Ron DeSantis is not only defying that kind of logic, but also creating a new one of his own. The coronavirus virus situation in Florida is making many seriously consider the defiant state governor as the next Republican Party presidential candidate. Standing in his way, of course, is the man he reportedly wants to be, Donald Trump, and how heavy handed Joe Biden wants to show the world he can be.

Critics say Governor DeSantis is a political opportunist who is risking the lives of American citizens in his state to push through a highly controversial agenda. Supporters see a courageous resistance leader, who is “probably risky, but why not?”

DeSantis’ showdown with Biden over “freedom” and restrictive measures is the crux of intensified political polarisation that has rocked America since Trump’s election loss and its immediate tumultuous aftermath. The national divide is prudently blamed by the Biden administration on the slowdown of vaccine rollouts and hence the COVID-19 surge. However, with America’s impressive vaccination numbers and coronavirus cases breaking through 100,000 daily again, something else is probably wrong apart from vaccine hesitancy.

News analyses, written by the pro-Biden camp, of course, are saying that the die-hard vaccine naysayers are kamikaze pilots who will never get inoculated no matter what. Those people, and there are a lot of them, have Trump as their role model, but DeSantis’ clout is growing rapidly as well.

***Photo from his Facebook***

August 7, 2021: Tear gas was fired. There were skirmishes. At least one police vehicle was set on fire. Arrests were made. Smokes filled streets. There’s only one thing uncommon: The majority of untoward incidents ended relatively quickly.

Today’s protest, the latest against embattled Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, seemed to underline the dilemma facing his opponents. Should they up the ante or should they wait for his government to crumble by its own under the weight of COVID-19?

Warnings had been given even by those who would like the government to fall. They were concerned that violent or unruly protesters could turn the tide in Prayut’s favour at a time when it might be strategically wiser to just sit and watch.

One misstep and Prayut’s rivals can “twist the knife in the nation’s wound.” Violent protests, which in the past could put government forces in bad light, could turn out to be a bad idea when everyone is afraid of crowded gathering. Heavy-handed state handling of protesters was often condemned previously but that might not be the case now during a coronavirus-induced state of emergency.

August 6, 2021: One of the still-evolving coronavirus’ biggest achievements so far must be the fact that the current resurgence in America and China is deepening both superpowers’ strife.

All health scientists are aware that if the likes of Washington, Beijing, London and Moscow genuinely join hands, the virus would stand little chance of surviving their concerted and harmonious effort, particularly in terms of vaccine development and public communications. With cases rising frighteningly in America and China detecting small but alarming numbers of infections, their intensified mistrust and propaganda campaigns against each other regarding the virus’ “origin” have all but ruled out hope for a unified fight against COVID-19.

The United States has been, discreetly but progressively, promoting the theory that the virus came from a leak from a Chinese lab in Wuhan. China is claiming that a US military lab is to blame. According to CNN today, Beijing is reviving the military theory and stepping up efforts to call for a World Health Organisation investigation although China itself is doing everything it can to block attempts to make WHO launch a new probe into the Wuhan lab supposition.

Thanks to Delta, the superpowers’ conflict is alive and can even get worse. It’s bad news for the backpedaling world but the coronavirus must be happy for now.

August 5, 2021: Humanitarian concern has been cited in the World Health Organisation’s attempt to block what would be a global scramble for third shots of coronavirus vaccines. What has been debated a lot less is whether immunity imbalances throughout the world would play into the virus’ hands.

Delta shows what could happen if vaccines were inequitably dispensed. Rich countries seeking booster shots could return to hoarding and thus intensify the problem. Demands would jump back up and the gap, called Vaccine Apartheid by human rights advocates, can only widen. Already scarce vaccines in the third world can become even scarcer.

A growing number of health experts now say booster shots, if given selectively, would only allow the virus to turn away from the “protected” and zoom in on the “unprotected”, infect them and keep mutating in the process. To these experts, booster shots for the rich do not block the virus’ escape routes completely, instead allowing it to get away, regroup and have ample opportunities to mutate.

By the time the battle-hardened virus is ready for the “booster communities”, the world may “need” fourth shots in what could be a progressively vicious circle.

August 4, 2021: As Thailand’s infections shot past 20,000, the latest government gazette on COVID-19, apart from announcing increased measures to control gatherings at all levels, included what looked like a warning that the worst is yet to come.

According to one part of the announcement, “Public health authorities have made an analytical conclusion that the trend is likely to go higher.” Signed on Tuesday by the supreme commander, it was written before today’s figures became known and was meant partly to justify tougher measures, of course, yet it is consistent with what Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin, the government’s spokesman on COVID-19 situation, had said earlier.

Several days ago, he mentioned a daily infection figure of 30,000. At that time it looked scary but now it looks both scary and close.

August 3, 2021: Hair-raising as it is, Delta is a very imperfect prototype version of the coronavirus seeking to outsmart vaccines completely, experts and the World Health Organisation have warned.

A much-scarier version may be around the corner, thanks largely to “vaccine imbalance” around the world which is allowing the coronavirus to become stronger with each passing day.

Human beings are facing a real race against time, the scientists said. In the space of about six weeks, Delta went from accounting for around 10 per cent of cases in the United States to a stunning 83 per cent of the country’s new cases. The pace is not only a big alarm, but it also is an indicator of what an improved virus version can do and how fast it can do it when it comes out.

Vaccines are still the best way to go, for now, but there has been an increasing number of “breakthrough cases”, in which fully-inoculated people have got infected. Vaccination can still prevent death as well as severe illnesses, but Delta’s job appears to focus on penetrating and not killing as much. And, remember, if scientists’ fear is correct, Delta is just a prototype that is far from perfect.

“Delta is a warning: it’s a warning that the virus is evolving but it is also a call to action that we need to move now before more dangerous variants emerge,” said Michael Ryan, WHO’s director of emergencies.

Humans wearing masks at home is spreading, mandatorily or else.

August 2, 2021: Thai government leaders have expressed wholehearted gratitude toward the Biden administration which has donated a large amount of vaccines to Thailand, which is battling what looks like a free-fall COVID-19 outbreak.

The donation has come despite the fact that America itself is experiencing frightening rises in case numbers. The situation in the superpower country, however, is totally opposite to Thailand’s when vaccines are concerned. According to The New York Times this week, data from 10 American states shows that more than one million doses have gone to waste amid the slowdown in vaccine rollouts across the United States.

Georgia alone has reportedly destroyed 110,000 doses. Of the more than 53,000 doses wasted in New Jersey, nearly 20,000 were discarded last month. In Ohio, more than 370,000 have been reported unusable. In Maryland, around 50,000 doses were a surplus.

Medical staff in America have been calling for the excesses to be given to needy nations. The slowdown in rollouts in America has been blamed on plummeting demands for shots, a situation reportedly caused by politically-induced vaccine hesitancy.

But even vocal critics of the US in Thailand have said a sincere “Thank you” for the donation. They joined Thai government leaders in expressing gratitude and the term “Great friendship” was heard a lot over the past two days.

According to the American Embassy, the United States has donated 1,503,450 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to Thailand. This shipment was “historic” and “reaffirms US support to our oldest ally in Asia.”

August 1, 2021: The Pheu Thai Party has led a chorus of criticism against online media restrictions related to COVID-19, whereas US President Joe Biden has complained that “misinformation” related to the same thing “is killing people.”

The line is very thin now, indeed, as Delta continues to cut a devastating swathe through the world, making human beings raise questions about effectiveness of vaccines, create “conspiracy” rumours, bemoan “irresponsible” opinions, criticise state “blackouts” and adjust political tones on a daily basis.

As Delta does not make choices based on human politics or ideology, China seems safe, at least for now, while the United States is feeling a new big scare and Thailand’s free fall was sudden and is going on with no end in sight.

Developments in the three countries beg the questions of how freely opinions should flow, how much people can or should share their fear, even if it is based on unscientific influences, and how much right governments have to nip “misinformation” in the bud.

To cut a long story short, Pheu Thai has quoted every principle of freedom of opinions in the American book written before the coronavirus struck, while Biden was speaking like Chinese leaders the other day.