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A Week in Review: November 27 - December 3, 2010

The recurring theme of last week’s news in Thailand was relationships and their many intricate stages of development. From innocent courtship to acrimonious divorce, Thailand has had it all over the last seven days. Where did the love go? Find out here…

A relationship is a long and complex process with many stages and countless variables. Love or hate, nothing promotes stronger feelings than a relationship.

It all starts with the wooing, the courtship, the sweet serenade. Chocolates, flowers, 30-baht healthcare schemes – whatever it takes. Raising the minimum wage is always a good one – especially with an election coming up. But giving the target of your desire an extra 11 baht a day might be considered a bit stingy and may not be enough to win their affections.

When courtship fails, love can remain unrequited. In most cases, people accept it and eventually move on. And then there are those who just won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Rape is a daily problem in male-dominated Thailand. While each and every case is deplorable, the gang rape of a policewoman by her colleagues in southern Thailand last week was a new low.

Of course, one of the consequences of rape can be an unwanted pregnancy, and abortion was still in the news last week, too. Following Naked Farang’s call last week to make men in Thailand more accountable so as to prevent unwanted pregnancies, the Social Development and Human Security Ministry has taken an alternative approach to the issue of paternal responsibility. However, their punitive calls to criminalise the fathers as well as the mothers in abortion cases offer little in the way of a solution.

Even the closest relationships can have their ups and downs. There was more dissent in the Phuea Thai ranks last week when six of the opposition party’s MPs agreed to take part in the second reading of the government’s charter amendment debate in direct contradiction of the official party line. The rebellious MPs were labelled as ‘shameful’ and ‘unforgiveable’ by Phuea Thai leaders and threatened with expulsion.

Meanwhile, the Democrats were also suffering from a mild bout of disunity. One of the party’s own MPs abstained from the same vote, apparently on principle, which could be a first for a Thai politician.

Sometimes, separation is the only way forward. Former bedfellows the Democrat Party and the yellow shirt PAD have been drifting steadily apart over the last couple of years. Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who is now the Democrat MP for the southern constituency of Surat Thani, likened the PAD to the red shirt UDD last week and claimed that both were undermining democracy through mob rule.

When a relationship breaks down irrecoverably, then divorce is the likely outcome and it can often be messy. A Thai woman (aged 41) has won the backing of the Lawyers Council for Thailand in her bid to sue the UK border authorities for 100 million baht over her rights to stay in the UK so that she could divorce her estranged Scottish husband (aged 67). Don’t get me started.

After the absolute breakdown of a relationship, there is always the chance to start afresh with a new partner. The red shirt UDD has a new leader in Thida Thavornseth, who is renowned as being a moderate and opposed to violence. However, she has a major job on her hands to rescue the reputation of the UDD after its acts of brazen violence of the past 3 years.

And then there are those special relationships that are so common in Thailand. No, I’m not talking about fat, balding Germans swapping sausages with individuals of questionable gender in Pattaya. I’m talking about those truly cosy bonds that develop over time between secret lovers. I’m talking about the mistress, or mia noi, as she is called in Thailand.

The case against the Democrat Party over its alleged misuse of a 29-million baht grant from the Election Commission was dismissed on a technicality by the Constitution Court last week. While there was no suggestion that the Democrats may actually have been innocent of the charges, four Constitution Court judges ruled that the EC failed to submit the case to the courts within the 15-day limit after becoming aware of any misdoings, and that this was far more important than pressing ahead with the pursuit of justice.

On the plus side, it allows for the continuation of Thailand’s oldest political party and adds a sense of stability to Thai politics. On the flip side, however, it is aviation fuel to the double standards bonfire of those aligned to the red shirt UDD and Phuea Thai (or her previous but now dissolved incarnations).

Indeed, a relationship is a long and complex process with many stages and countless variables. Love or hate, nothing promotes stronger feelings than a relationship.

Spread the love around.

Paul Snowdon – December 4, 2010

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