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A Week in Review: November 13-19, 2010

It was a week of integrity and truth in Thai politics. Read on to find out whose turn it was to trample all over these noble attributes last week.…

In a bid to set a standard of moral integrity, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva requested that Bhum Jai Thai and Chart Thai Pattana ministers contesting seats in the upcoming by-elections on December 12 follow the example of Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who resigned from his cabinet post before contesting the October 30 by-election in Surat Thani.

While there is no legal obligation for cabinet ministers to surrender their positions before competing in a by-election, the request is another example of Abhisit’s long and arduous crusade to introduce ethics into Thai politics.

Somewhat bemused by this alien concept, Chart Thai Pattana’s Kuerkul Danchaivishit and Bhum Jai Thai’s Boonjong Wongtrairat had the full backing of their parties when they initially refused to step down from their posts of Deputy Transport Minister and Deputy Interior Minister respectively. However, the pair eventually bowed under pressure and gave in to the PM’s request.

Incidentally, if you are wondering why the by-elections are taking place, it is because Kuerkul and Boonjong were among six MPs disqualified by the Constitution Court for violating constitutional regulations.

The fact that Kuerkul and Boonjong are allowed to stand for re-election despite being found guilty of breaching the rules makes a mockery of the system, and the fact that they have chosen to stand for re-election shows just how big a task Abhisit has ahead of him in his moral crusade. At a cost of almost 80 million baht to the taxpayer, the by-elections are a very expensive joke.  

One Democrat MP, Somkiat Chanthawanich, was also among the six disqualified, but he has chosen not to re-contest his seat in Bangkok in another gesture by the Democrats of ethical standards.

In his place, the Democrats have chosen former Bangkok governor Apirak Kosayodhin to contest the seat. Apirak previously won two gubernatorial elections in Bangkok – the second one by a landslide with a total of 900,000 votes. However, he stood down when the National Anti Corruption Commission (NACC) began investigating his role in the questionable procurement of fire trucks and boats from an Austrian firm for 6.8 billion baht. Even though the deal was signed by previous Bangkok governor Samak Sundravej, and Apirak was eventually not indicted, the NACC went ahead with the case and it is still in process.

There is an interesting comparison between Apirak stepping down after a second landslide election victory when accusations of corruption surfaced, and the case of a former prime minister who won a second election by a landslide but who refused to step down amid claims of massive corruption.

While Apirak did the honourable thing despite his claims of innocence, our erstwhile PM chose to deny everything, blame everyone except himself, and cling desperately to power until he was forcibly removed.  While Apirak accepted his fate, Thaksin chose to launch a series of vindictive attacks against those who had exposed his crimes – and all at the expense of the people he claimed to represent.

A large part of Thaksin’s revenge was to (allegedly) fund a series of red shirt rallies in Bangkok this year after the courts ordered him to return some of the money he stole from the country. While Thaksin sat in luxury hotels around the world trying to convince the world that he was a victim, his supporters went for bust as they held the capital under siege for over two months.

A total of 92 people tragically lost their lives during those protests and last week the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) announced the initial results of its investigations into the deaths.

Of the 18 deaths that have so far been investigated, 12 (including 6 soldiers) were adjudged by the DSI to have been caused by red shirts or their supportive militia. The remaining 6 deaths were caused by unknown gunmen according to the DSI findings.

Unsurprisingly, the red shirts contested the findings and claimed a lack of transparency. While there can be no doubt that the red shirts were responsible for a large number of the deaths during the troubles, these results do seem at first glance to be heavily distorted in the government’s favour.

Although it is entirely possible that 12 of the investigated deaths were caused by red shirt protesters or black shirt militia, it is somewhat surprising that not one death of the initial group of 18 has been attributed to the military. However, if the investigated deaths are of the first outbreak of violence on April 10, then they could well be accurate.

It will be interesting to see the results of the DSI’s investigations into the remaining deaths.

Let integrity and truth prevail.

Paul Snowdon – November 20, 2010

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28 Nov 2015, 04:47
I have viewed the Mekong many times from Nong Khai and Phon Phisai. I've milany been sat at market restaurants and once in the Tha Sadet market in Nong Khai myself and Wi were sat there eating fish looking at the quiet waters when all of a sudden a storm brewed on the Laos side and then whoosh, it whipped across the water and battered Nong Khai for a good twenty minutes. It was awesome. The river is a big big economic source for traders on both sides of the Mekong but when I look over at Laos I can't help but think as much as Thailand has its troubles Laos lags a long way behind in the standard of life its people live. A river that in someways divides two very different ways of life..-= Martynb4s last blog .. =-.
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