Catching up

It is somehow extremely difficult to resume blogging after a long break, and everybody needed a break after the intensity of April-May rallies.

Nothing seems worth writing about in comparison and certainly not worth spending several hundreds words on.

Still, life is going on, so let me sum up what has happened in the past couple of months.

Bangkok by-election

PTP has chosen a jailed candidate, then, as expected, its fan club started whining about how Korkaew was at a disadvantage. It doesn’t make any sense, of course, but being red is not about sense, it’s about making noise.

During the campaign itself PTP was a lot more visible on the road, they had more trucks, more people, more posters, louder music and so on.

I’ve heard of a woman who is registered in one of the new moobans in that constituency but lives mostly downtown, she was dragged to vote by her family but was not very interested herself. She drove to the polling station, got in a booth, and realized she doesn’t know what number to vote for. Once you are in there, there are no names and parties, only numbers, so she tried to remember and the first number that came to her was “4”, the biggest, most visible, red on white number that she saw most often, so she ticked it. Then, still in the booth, she asked her sister if she made the right choice (Dem). She changed her choice but I think it resulted in a spoiled ballot in the end.

This is a perfect example of how factors other than political ideology can influence voters’ decisions, easily.

The result itself presents quite a few explanations. On one hand it looks like both Reds and Dem supporters remain politicized active and they came out in masses – the drop in vote count for both parties was less than 10% comparing to 2007, that means that people who voted for other parties in 2007 couldn’t be bothered this time around, letting Dems and PTP to slug it out and causing a very low turnout overall.

Another explanation could be that voters across the spectrum were equally apathetic and it’s a mere coincidence that both PTP and Dem tallies were close to 2007 numbers, in this case both parties picked up a lot of third choice voters. From Dems’ perspective it’s the worst case scenario – PTP were not expected to draw any new blood into its ranks.

Third explanation is that PTP rallied its troops and nobody else while Dems were trying to appeal to everyone who is non-red, including tens of thousands of people who didn’t vote for them last time, people who had a long weekend and less interest in supporting the government no matter what. Dems won, but not by a huge margin.

Bottom line – no party can say that it lost and both have good reasons to be hopeful when the general elections finally come.

Personally, I think PTP squeezed as much as it could and no red supporter skipped the voting, means they command only about 30% of the vote and would need not only to beat the Dems but also woo coalition partners away from them. Personally I think it won’t work, not on the red agenda.

Election preparations

It looks like Abhisit will call the elections in the first half of next year, parties are switching to election mood already. Bangkok is peppered with advertising for city council elections, I believe, and, for the first time, there’s a lot of New Politics posters everywhere. Bangkok is not Thailand but it’s the first testing ground for every party involved.

Elsewhere PTP is expelling a few rebel MPs with a few more said to be leaving for BJT. Come election time there could be a lot more defections if PTP can’t stop the bleeding. For months their North Eeastern MPs were complaining about how the party is run, particularly about Shinawatra clan members who are in charge. In the capital the rift between Chalerm and Sudarat has been reported many times over, and now they think about Mingkwan as the PM candidate. That won’t go well with Chalerm, too.

Mingkwan has zero appeal outside the party, he has been around for a long time now but has never achieved anything substantial. I remember his promise in 2007 to increase Thailand’s income from tourism four times. Can’t figure out how – four times more tourists, or making them spend four times more? Doesn’t matter, he is first class bullshitter, he doesn’t claim to have any connection to reality anyway.

“Third choice” parties are also preparing themselves. They realize they are too small to make any impact and need to join hands to get noticed by the electorate. Ideally they want to be the deal breakers, position now enjoyed by BJT and Chart Thai. BJT will probably be more successful, though, at the expense of Isan MPs from PTP and possibly some factions from Chart Thai itself.

Democrats will go with Abhisit, easily the best and most acceptable candidate in non-red eyes. They can’t go wrong with him, despite all the accusations.

Democrat Party Dissolution

Dissolution threat is like a swing. One day it looks like Dems are done, the next day it looks like they are off the hook. There are two cases here, one is about misusing official EC funds, another about illegal donation by Prachai of TPP fame.

Back in 2004 Prachai was hunted by Thaksin and it’s very likely that he turned to Democrats for political support. It is also very likely that he contributed to their campaign, too. Legally, however, the case is very shaky, for the lack of proof. DSI has dropped the case against TPP itself, ie no money has gone missing, so it would be more difficult to argue that Dems have “stolen” it.

The witnesses have changed their minds, too, or have been made to change their minds, doesn’t really matter. I find the whole idea of prosecuting the party for offenses three elections and five years ago and under different management an abuse of the system. The only plausible reason is that when Abhisit became the party leader he had signed off the financial statements for the previous year, too, that makes him legally responsible and prosecutable even though he had nothing to do with it. No one cares about the rest of the Democrat team at that time.

There’s one very important point – the laws have been changed since 2004, it will be very tricky to prosecute Dems and impose penalties based on laws that didn’t exist at the time of the offense, and I don’t know how they are going to apply old lawbooks either. At this time finding one party executive guilty means disqualifying the whole board and dissolution, no leeway. That was not the case back then and I have no idea how the courts are going to solve this dilemma. The case could be just thrown out of the court.

The misuse of EC funds is even more ridiculous – Democrats are accused of printing posters that were one inch SHORTER than regulation. Now idiots like Chaturon insist the whole party must be dissolved. He, of course, doesn’t say the Democrat party must be dissolved for printing smaller posters, he just wants them dissolved, period. His main reason is that if TRT were caught cheating every other party must suffer, too. And he is referred to as the intelligent one in the opposition camp.

I can’t imagine how his brand of “rule of law” will develop should this poster boy for “progressives” ever lay his hands on power.

Thaksin, his shyster and red future

I mean, of course, Robert Amserdam. The man keeps plugging his stuff anywhere he can. He finally produced the “white paper” that has become quite a matter of contention when Somtow was asked to respond to it.

Lots of people, me included, dismiss all his efforts outright and think that his works are just mountains of garbage and are not worth wasting any time on. His point, however, is to try and engage the public in a debate at any cost. Get a foot in the door, then you can start extracting concessions.

Somtow saw it right through, The Nation got caught for a second and posted both of them on the same front page, giving Amsterdam the publicity he so badly needs. That was one off, though, they are not going to engage Amsterdam any more, I think.

I haven’t read the white paper itself but I’ve read enough of Amsterdam’s to see that the man has absolutely no consciousness and no moral or ethical constraints when it comes to manipulating the facts.

Once he accused Abhisit of personal and groundless attacks on him when, in fact, Abhisit hasn’t said a word at all. The accusation could have been, if stretched to the limit, applied to Abhisit spokesman but Amsterdam put it into Huffington Post anyway, with “supporting evidence” being an untranslated page from a Thai newspaper. No shame in misleading unsuspected readers whatsoever.

In the “white paper” itself the first paragraph states that the coup overthrew an elected Prime Minister and that TRT had won 2006 elections. I can see where he is coming from but this is just plain untrue. Thaksin wasn’t elected, he lost the status when he dismissed the parliament, he was merely an interim PM, and no one won 2006 elections, there were annulled before they were even completed.

It’s just garbage.

There’s no benefit in dissecting the whole paper, as long as he remains on Thaksin’s payroll no one would pay any attention to what he says, no matter how many times he issues his trademark “Let me be clear on this” denial. As a total newbie to Thailand Amsterdam doesn’t realize what declaring yourself as someone’s proxy does to one’s strength and arguments. Samak could pull it off, Amsterdam has no chance. No one in Thailand would ever listen to him, which makes me question the wisdom of hiring him in the first place.

He has never had a shot at influencing domestic opinions and internationally no one pays attention to Thailand anymore, one paper or one article or even one editorial here and there won’t persuade anyone, international opinion makers on this country are spread too far and between and are not going to be swayed by his paid presentations, and it’s them who’ll set the tone next time Thailand gets in the spotlight.

There’s simply no market for his crap.

Meanwhile, Jakrapob is hinting that Thaksin himself is reconsidering his strategy of trying to defeat the whole country. Thaksin’s a bit of a slow learner in that respect.

While Somtow claims Thaksin can be easily forgiven if he shows enough remorse I somehow doubt that now, not after all that has happened, and paying Amsterdam’s is not helping here at all.

Avatar change

I’ve watched Uncle Boonmee a couple of weeks ago. Absolutely delightful.

The only spoilers were a few “movie experts” who were clapping hands and laughing at “jokes” in the most inappropriate moments. I see how lots of people would try to “understand” the movie and express their “success” with emotional outbursts, but, come on, it’s not your traditional Hollywood/Channel 7 storyline, things do not follow each other in a simple, logical progression there.

Yet they are all inexplicably connected, affecting and complementing each other in a myriad different ways. It would take days to try and explain what exactly the connections are, what the background for each scene and dialogue is, which part are new and original by local standards and which parts are totally conventional.

So, when the “experts” clapped hands at calling Bangkok a “City from Hell” I hope it’s not out of joke appreciation, I hope they at least understood Thai word play here – “maha nakorn” vs “maha narok”. That is an example of a totally conventional, stale joke and a widely held view. Everyone here has heard this kind of joke at least ten times in their lives., nothing to get excited about. The Bangkok woman in the movie hardly reacted at all, and that’s how most Thai would react, too. It “works” only on the uninitiated.

In the end I walked out convinced that foreigners who claim that there’s nothing special about Thailand and dismiss any “you don’t understand this country” arguments out of hand have no idea how really complex and intricate Thai society is.

Is he movie red or yellow? What a daft question! That’s a totally alien, artificial juxtaposition. Not only in the movie, but in the society in general.

In the end I thought that monkey ghost from the movie was pretty cool so I changed my avatar here. In case you haven’t seen the movie, it’s a mysterious ghost that quietly flows through the whole story, at one point luring an enthusiastic photographer to abandon civilization, marry a monkey woman, and go live in the jungle.

Don’t know what we have in common but the image is visually stunning.


Latest “developments”

I can’t bring myself to the same blow by blow following of the current “developments” after the intensity of the red rally.

I just can’t follow the tweets, compare them to the internet coverage and then to the final print versions on subjects as trivial as cabinet reshuffles.

Nevertheless, the latest movements need to be addressed, even if they were just long runs on a stationary fitness machine – lots of sweat but going nowhere.

So, Abhisit reshuffled the cabinet. Big deal. Mostly he just accommodated the greed of those Dem members who were left out of his first cabinet. He promised them ministerial places and he kept his word.

Then there’s a question of dealing with Phua Paendin. I think Abhisit wasn’t really punishing them but was more concerned with keeping his BJT allies happy instead. What does he care about a dozen “abstain” voices anyway?

BJT does, and they made it known, and Abhisit had to placate them.

To add 3D texture to this conflict consider that the BJT minister in question dared to defy Abhisit’s order to halt to the road extension in Khao Yai just a day after Abhisit went out of his way to protect him.

He has a point, btw, and a pertinent one. While environmentalists talk about protecting the forest and the right to enjoy the unspoiled views of Khao Yai on twisted roads, the minister talks of people who make a living there and who can’t stand sitting in traffic for hours everyday.

This is the paradox of wanting the “poor” to have equal opportunities and amenities and having to pay for it by sacrificing the nature. Do these environmentalists have any idea how many trees and canals had to be sacrificed to make their living in Bangkok so easy? Isn’t it hypocritical that when their countryside counterparts want the same convenience, Bangkok environmentalists scream “murder”?

I DO feel for the trees. They should have been either replanted or had a religious ceremony before removing them for good. I know our lives are supremely important, but the trees, the living entities that stood there for decades if not centuries, should be recognized too. They played no small part in forming Thai identity over these years. They ARE , literally, the roots of this nation. Not any less than ghost houses and shrines.

On the other hand, the new, “modern” Thailand, has no place for this kind of superstitious garbage.

Some more 3D texture to the reshuffle – not all Phua Paendin factions rebelled, some stay loyal to the government, and that faction includes former candidate for Prime Minister who lost a vote to Abhisit in 2008.

Here is your “unbreachable” gap – if PTP got its way, we’d have a PM who now vote for Abhisit anyway.

In the latest moves towards reconciliation DSI proposed an amnesty for rank and file red shirts who broke the Emergency Decree. Many questioned the need for such amnesty – do they even feel sorry to be forgiven? Do they feel they did anything wrong?

Someone mentioned that the law is lenient enough to such small time offenders, they have no real chance of facing persecution anyway.

Abhisit is so far quiet on the issue.

In the meantime the red leaders enjoying well deserved holidays in Cha-Am were finally moved to a remand prison in Bangkok. Now that’s unpleasant.

Abhisit appointed Kanit as a head of investigations in April-May violence. Red cheerleaders on the Internet and elsewhere immediately rejected him.

He, as they now say, let Democrats off the hook in land scandal back in the 90s.

Kanit was the Attorney General at that time and Democrats were put through the media trial and forced to resign. When the case reached Kanit he dropped it for the lack of evidence.

Now, these days, if someone, say Thaksin, is convicted by Thai media but the case can’t pass Attorney General’s requirements, how do you think red supporters, the self-appointed warriors against double standards, would react?

Red leader Veera, possibly unaware of politically correct moves outside, expressed full trust in Kanit. I bet some reds think he is an old fool walking into a government trap.

More on reconciliation – Abhisit promised to make a grand announcement one day then ended with a ten minute address saying that he’ll present his gift of “roadmap” in time for Christmas. I thought he was joking but it appears he is at least half serious.

Perhaps it just downed on him what this reconciliation and welfare society would truly mean. For half a century Thailand was pursuing the US development model – as much capitalism as possible, everyone for himself, and a relatively small government. To come up with a plan how to change it into a European model in a couple of months is impossible, not if you take the task seriously.

Off the top of my head – can people agree on some 20% value added tax, for example? Can they agree to pay taxes at all? Very few do and personal income tax is probably the smallest income source for the government. Who will pay for all this welfare? Thailand can’t afford to increase business taxes – it has to compete with the neighbors.

If it pays the workers western style wages – can it export its products?

Personally, I think it’s impossible to restructure the country, they’d have to make do with incremental changes but those changes don’t translate in catchy platform slogans.

Personally, I think Abhisit should spend less time on roadmaps and more time on explaining people how this country really works and what is expected of each particular sector of the society and how each sector can possibly improve and to what extent and who should be the agent of those changes, what sacrifices need to be made and by whom.

Unless there’s a thorough understanding of where the country is now, there’s no chance of getting public support to move in any particular direction, regardless of whether it’s a right move or not.

The problem is that reds (and yellows, for that matter), have subjected themselves to rigorous training in half baked “democracy” and overcoming their fossilized perceptions is going to be very very difficult.

There’s no other way, though, deprogramming is unavoidable if the government, any government, even PTP led one, is going to embark on massive socialist/welfare society building effort.

I think it’s possible to explain how the country works in a way the reds and yellows can agree – from cheap labor to voting to taxes. Everybody knows that already anyway, just no one openly talks about it without political prejudice.

And no, the monarchy and succession have nothing to with it.


Never a manc said so much to so many that means so little

Ripped from Ricky Gervais show, which is a series of pointless conversation between Ricky Gervais, Steve Merchant, and a little round-headed buffoon that is Karl Pilkington…

Now where would you put it? This headstone is round but maybe that was only for the show.

Constituency battles

So Democrats decided not to sponsor constituency size amendments but it’s not clear what is their stand on article 190 about foreign agreements yet.

Amending that article makes sense as there was a lot of discomfort at the Foreign ministry after Noppadon’s deal with Cambodia was ruled unconstitutional. On the other hand, it’s Democrats who control Foreign Ministry now and if they don’t think the article 190 makes it inconvenient, how’s that any of Banharn’s business? His party will never get the foreign ministry portfolio, what’s it to him?

Multi/singe constituency is trickier and it goes to the heart of what do they need parliamentarians for in the first place, what are their duties, who they represent and so on, then two systems need to be considered relative to each other and expected results.

Originally the country was carved into 400 constituencies, and I suspect no one remembers them all. People know 76 provinces and they address each MP as such and such from this or that province. People never relate to them as representatives of their minuscule geographical areas, so, from the national assembly point of view, those small constituencies practically don’t exist.

It was different on the local level, smaller constituencies meant the MPs knew everybody in their areas, or everybody important. One MP per constituency also meant “winner takes all”, and competition was fierce. Naturally candidates tried to be as close to the voters as possible, and while it is probably a good thing, it also means that people made their voting decisions on matters that have nothing to do with their jobs at the national assembly at all. When campaigns are localized, national agendas fade into the background. Not to mention that it’s easier to buy votes in smaller places, either by paying money or giving out rice bags or t-shirts or holding free food political rallies and so on.

2007 constitution brought in larger, multi seat constituencies. Candidates had a lot more ground to cover, they needed to appeal to broader spectrum of population and present broader issues, relevant to larger areas and larger groups. In a way it brought their electoral agendas closer to national issues, though the gap is still too big, I think. It’s also not easy to buy votes in large areas, you need more money and it’s more difficult to keep track of it all. Local poo yais and village had less persuasive power, too. You needed to show something more than just “everybody on that side of the river knows me”. Candidates had to have bigger profile, larger caliber.

Multi-seat also means that three candidates with highest number of votes are winners, and where some area was totally under one party control even if they had only 1% majority, now it has a possibility of being shared, giving better representation vis-a-vi voter proportions.

Personally I think it’s not a bad idea to have ALL candidates run on their national platform, not on local issues. Neither the government nor the parliament have any regional structures, they have committees and ministries based on industries or social issues, never on local ones. New politics proposal addresses this perfectly – if you want to be on the House Industrial Policies committee you should be elected by industrialists, not by some Ban Nok residents who have no idea what you are supposed to do there and want a new klong in their neighborhood instead, but that’s for another post.

Anyway, smaller parties have better chances under one-seat system, they don’t have resources to fight on a bigger scale, and being close to voters is their strong suit. They have build themselves on being close to their people and they have always provided for them, leaving their legislating duties to big boys in parliament.

Big boys, on their end, are busy with their big pictures, they want to leave local issues to local governments, Tamboon and Provincial Administrations, which are elected nowadays, and they should be the ones who to handle local issues, not MPs.

Apart from being a deadwood in parliament, big boys think that those small parties who win their cabinet quota don’t have qualified candidates to fill them. They appoint a nurse as a Commerce Minister and a retired teacher as a Deputy Health Minister – jobs way over their heads.

So now Democrats decided to stay with larger, multi-seat constituencies, and it must be noted that it was a decision by their executive board, not by the body of their MPs who had to fight it out on the ground and probably didn’t like large area campaigns very much. Anyway, they had a meeting and they delegated the decision to the executives, so that’s it.

Now it’s Phue Thai’s turn to make up their minds and they have exactly the same concerns as Democrats – they are being challenged by break away TRT factions that have excellent on the ground support while they have the legacy of running on attractive national policies, health care for all and so on that are not as attractive anymore as everybody offers the same national platform.

It would be interesting to see how it goes. They might support the amendment for now to get to the Democrats but regret it or even back off later.


The court killed all the suspense for me with scheduling Thaksin’s verdict on Feb 26 – more than a month from now.

In the meantime the public is treated to a cacophony of predictions, scenarios, strategies and other assorted bullshit – all possible ways to keep themselves “on the edge”.

Nothing will happen. It’s a huge waste of time.

Reds won’t make a dent, parliament won’t change a thing, Thaksin won’t start an invasion from Cambodia. The only way to affect the outcome is to put pressure on the individual judges but that is not going to be allowed either.

We are in for a one huge anti-climax.

Nothing big is going to happen after the verdict either. Reds will be reds, Thaksin will be Thaksin, Prem will be Prem, and Democrats will be Democrats.

Even if Thaksin gets all his money back there’s not much he can do with it in Thailand in the short to medium term. He needs to wait until people forget him before staging a comeback, with or without the money. With the money he’d be accused of buying his way in, with all the predictable opposition. I think he’d have a better chance counting on compassion.

Without the money he could be in a deep deep shit financially and Thai politics would be the last thing on his mind, if the stories of his huge borrowings are true.

Either way, it doesn’t affect the way the country would live its live in the meantime.

Banharn and his constitution amendments push during no confidence debate might break up the coalition and force the elections sooner than Democrats hope, that would be the end of him as people in general are just not ready for a new round of instability and electioneering when things have just started looking up after years of gloom and crisis. He’d would lose more seats than he hopes to gain by changing elections rules.

I hope he’s doing this only to squeeze some money from Thaksin and so his enthusiasm will be short lived.

The only cool head these days is on Abhisit’s shoulders, he just keeps going, ignoring all the brouhaha around him. Unusually quiet Sondhi could also be a sign that PAD/NPP/KMM realize it’s not the right time to rock the boat yet. They’ve just opened their new HQs and the event was reported as very low key.

To sum it up, only untimely elections and Thaksin’s premature push back in following a court victory would have a real adverse effect, everything else could be safely ignored.

Hello world!

Let’s go over some fundamentals first.


The world is perfect, Thai politics are perfect, there’s nothing to improve. Really.


The world and Thai politics in particular serve their purposes just fine. The problem is that we want something different out of it.

To the folks who’d protest that it can’t be fine, that people are suffering as a result of this mess, my answer is – people would suffer anyway. In Bhagavad Gita there was this guy, Arjuna, and he was going into a battle against half of his relatives. So he hesitated – people he cared about very much would be killed.  He was given a simple, and profound answer – they are already dead, you just don’t know it yet. Your job is to go out and do whatever you have to do, and don’t worry whether they live or die – God will sort it out himself, that’s his job, and he is better than you at balancing people’s karma anyway. In fact he is perfect at whatever he is doing, by definition.


So, having this attitude in mind, what should we do about Thai politics?  On one hand, if there’s God’s design for it and he’s watching over – then everything is fine, he can’t be wrong. On the other hand, if it sounds so fatalistic – why should we, I, bother at all? Well, I feel like I’m doing something useful here, that it’s kind of “my job”, so, regardless of the outcome, I’m happy I’m doing this, just for the sake of making effort. I’d feel inadequate writing a blog on flowers, or motoring, or scuba diving instead. It just wouldn’t be right.


Generally I apply the same standard to anything else – if people are doing something  because they genuinely feel like they have to, that it’s the “right thing” – I support them wholeheartedly. If they have ulterior motives – that’s the reality of life. Everybody has ulterior motives, all the time, the difference is in the degree and people’s own awareness of what is right and what is wrong, of the voice of their own consciousness, even if they are too weak to follow it.


So, the task is to keep the absolute, unattainable goal in mind, and navigate the dirty world of politics at the same time, making choices and backing one side over another.


Let’s see how it goes.