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A Week in Review: July 3-9, 2010

The two faces of Thai politics...

Thai politicians have never been noted for their steadfast principles, but some leadership decisions caused a few raised eyebrows last week. Find out why in our week in review here...

With neither an official leader of the opposition nor any party executives because they fear being banned from politics if their party is dissolved, Phuea Thai has been accused from within of lacking direction, becoming fragmented and being badly run. It came as no surprise then that at a party conference, it was decided that unofficial party leader, Yongyuth Wichaidit, who is not even an elected MP, was to be replaced. While no definite decision on his replacement has yet been made, the current favourites appear to be the highly controversial Chalerm Yubamrung or even the ideologically hypocritical Jatuporn Prompan.

Meanwhile, the New Politics Party (NPP), which was formed out of the yellow shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), also chose a new leader. Somsak Kosaisuk is a former railway union leader who broke the trend of modern Thai politics by actually presenting a manifesto. Somsak and the NPP aim to prevent the privatisation of state enterprises and also hope to de-privatise Thai petroleum company PTT.

The unstable nature of Thai politics means that politicians change sides more often than Italians during a war, and policies seem to revolve around nothing more ideological than matters of self-enrichment. Equally, the myriad of political parties in Thailand are led by feudalistic masters or leaders who are chosen for their ability to charm voters rather than for their steadfast ideals.  Nevertheless, these two latest leadership decisions deserve a little closer inspection.

First, we have Phuea Thai, the party that claims to represent the rural and urban poor, the political voice of the red shirt UDD movement that is fighting a supposed class war against Thailand’s bourgeois elite. Although the UDD and PT sound a socialist rallying cry, they are noticeably short on policies to improve the lives of Thailand’s poor. In fact, PT is run and populated by a disunited collection of uber capitalists who could not be ideologically further away from the people whose support they have hijacked.

Chalerm will be forever remembered for “allegedly” helping his son flee the country and escape prosecution for the murder of a policeman in full view of several people in a packed nightclub – hardly somebody to preach from the moral high ground or lead by example.

And then we have Jatuporn, the charismatic but morally bankrupt red shirt leader and PT MP whose hate-filled and twisted speeches regularly urged the rural poor to rise up against their oppressors and fight against injustice – a somewhat ironic stance considering that when he was a secretary to a deputy agriculture minister and minister of natural resources and environment in the Thaksin government, he and other ministry officials were very much oppressors of the poor.

In 2003, local farmers in Nakhon Si Thammarat occupied a plantation owned by Thai Ruam Pattana Farming Company in protest at government land policy. The farmers accused authorities of leasing large tracts of land to major palm oil companies instead of redistributing the land to the farmers. Jatuporn and other ministry officials ordered 1,000 police to retake the land, defending their action by claiming the protesters were armed and in violation of trespassing laws.

Does the siege of Ratchaprasong sound familiar?

Then we have the NPP whose main support base is Bangkok’s middle classes and bourgeois elite. Yet they appoint a former union leader and announce socialist policies as their mandate - decisions that would surely be more appropriate for the supporters of PT and the red shirt UDD.

Am I missing something here?

There was also a shock on Monday when Cambodia voluntarily deported two Thais accused of being involved in the bomb attack on Bhum Jai Thai headquarters by red shirt supporters in Bangkok a couple of weeks earlier. Three suspects had already been arrested in Thailand, but the husband and wife had slipped easily through the flimsy police net and fled to Cambodia, which has developed a reputation as something of a safe hideout for Thai criminals over the years – just ask Chalerm’s son.

Even though Thailand had not officially requested that the two suspects be returned to face trial, Cambodia somewhat surprisingly took it upon itself to arrest the duo and hand them over to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh in what is seen as an unexpected gesture of goodwill. However, whether or not Cambodia offers to return wanted red shirt leaders, including Arisman and Penkair, who are also believed to be currently hiding out in the wild east, is far less likely.

Paul Snowdon – July 10, 2010

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28 Nov 2015, 03:46
(Kindle Edition) I am considering teairlvng to Thailand so I thought I'd get this book to browse through it to learn more. While there were a couple good tips, there was NO editing of this book it seemed. Punctuation was missing, the same sentence would be repeated two or three times in a row, etc. Once I was about 3/4 of the way through the book, it wouldn't let me go forward/backwards any pages. It locked up my Kindle and I had to restart it (took several times to work!). Freaked me out a bit, since thats the first time that has happened. If I tried any other book it worked, but if I went back to this Thailand book, it locked up again. I deleted it from my Kindle but even doing that locked it up. Once I restarted it and it was off my Kindle, I was good again and I haven't had problems with other books. I'm deleting this book completely from my Kindle library to avoid any more problems. I'm not sure if this would happen to you too, but to me, it seems like it had a virus attached to the book or something to cause all the problems. Buyer beware (and definitely if bad editing bugs you too).
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