THIS IS THAILAND
A Week in Review: January 15-21, 2011
As Thailand begins the countdown to a general election, both of the country’s main political parties found themselves facing their own unique problems last week. Find out what they were here…
With Phuea Thai having survived more than two years without being dissolved (quite an achievement considering the fate that befell both of the pro-Thaksin party’s earlier incarnations), a semblance of political stability has threatened to disrupt Thailand’s turbulent status quo.
But while a system wherein two main parties representing two very different segments of society may be considered not only conducive but also fundamental to political stability in most of the world’s democracies, such oxymoronic lunacy has no place in Thailand. As such, both of the country’s political giants found themselves facing rather different problems last week.
In the red corner, we have Phuea Thai. The irony of being run by corrupt, self-serving elitists with no political ideology or morals has not prevented Phuea Thai from establishing itself as the preferred political party of Thailand’s predominantly rural poor.
With the party’s true leader, Thaksin Shinawatra, in self-imposed exile, and its proxy figurehead, Yongyuth Wichaidit, doing nothing more than keeping the seat warm, Phuea Thai’s biggest challenge was always going to be keeping its mercenary collection of minor political factions together. Newin Chidchob and his Bhum Jai Thai party may have been the most high-profile financial defectors, but – for all its support – Phuea Thai is a castle built on sand.
Last week, Chalerm Yubamrung was the latest MP threatening to abandon the party. As chairman of Phuea Thai’s MPs, Chalerm is one of a number of egotists vying to become prime minister if Phuea Thai wins the next election. While Chalerm’s threat to jump ship could be easily dismissed as nothing more than a power play bluff, the firebrand politician is known to be at odds with other Phuea Thai MPs who favour a more diplomatic approach to politics.
All is clearly not well at Phuea Thai, but things are hardly any better on the other side of Thailand’s political divide.
In the yellow corner, we have the Democrat Party. Thailand’s oldest political party may have one of the few honest men in Thai politics as its leader, but he is fighting an uphill battle in his crusade to rid the party of corruption. Add to this the concessions that the party regularly has to make to appease its partners in the fragile coalition government that it heads, and the Democrat Party finds its own castle’s foundations as prone to subsidence as those of Phuea Thai’s.
Unlike Phuea Thai, however, the biggest issue facing the Democrat Party last week was not one of an internal revolt, but rather of a potentially fatal loss of grassroots support. While the Democrat Party has benefited substantially from the activities and support of the PAD (a.k.a. the yellow shirts) in recent years, it is a relationship that has become increasingly fragile of late.
Following the arrest and detention by the Cambodian authorities of seven Thais, including a Democrat MP, accused of trespassing on Cambodian territory, the Thai Patriots Network – an ultra nationalist splinter group of the PAD – has grown increasingly scathing of the government for not doing more to help the Thais (i.e. interfering in the judicial system of another country).
By the end of the week, five of the seven Thais had been given a suspended 9-month sentence for trespassing and freed. Still awaiting trial on the more serious charge of espionage, the remaining two included Veera Somkwamkid, a leader of the Thai Patriot’s Network (TPN) and something of a serial trespasser having been detained by Cambodian authorities on similar charges once before.
As part of the Cambodian trespassing saga, leading PAD figure Chaiwat Sinsuwong was finally arrested for his role in the yellow shirt’s occupation of Bangkok’s airports in 2008. Chaiwat, who clearly thought himself above the law, was the only yellow shirt leader not to have already surrendered to police.
Despite having more than two years to turn himself in, Chaiwat claimed that he was on his way to do exactly that when he was arrested in a restaurant. The fact that Chaiwat had just led a Thai Patriots Network protest march against the government’s handling of the situation with Cambodia had absolutely nothing to do with the timing of his arrest.
Somewhat perversely, while a big fuss was being made of the seven influential Thais being held in Cambodia, the Thai Patriots Network seemed to have less compatriotic compassion for eight Thai fishermen who were also detained last week for crossing the border to fish in Burmese waters.
In other news, having concluded its investigations into 89 deaths during the red shirt protests last year, the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) announced that red shirt protesters were responsible for 12 of the deaths, while government officials / security forces were responsible for another 13. The DSI report stated that it could not determine beyond doubt who had been responsible for the remaining 64 deaths.
And finally, Thai police announced last week that they were confident they could cut crime by 20%. Rumours immediately began to circulate (on my Facebook profile at least) that they were planning to lay off a fifth of their officers.
Paul Snowdon – January 22, 2011
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Have your say...
28 Nov 2015, 04:45
I've read several cmtemnos about the novel, and most have mentioned that
the author gained her knowledge through reading and research, I believe.An
author writing about a country not his or her own faces the additional
hazard of trying too hard not to write mere travelogue and winding up with
a story that could have been set anywhere. I have had that feeling about
novels from time to time.
03 Dec 2015, 04:51
Trevor June 14, 2009 Hey Greg, in Hawaii we have Kama'aina rates
for Hawaii residents. At state parks and such we dont have to pay anyhnitg
but visitors (even from the mainland do). I think its fair cuz I pay'
taxes there and already pay for the park staff salary, etc. We also have
discounts at hotels and stuff too. But hey, anyone on holiday in Hawaii
must be rich right? p.s. I think the biggest rip off is at Muay Thai
fights. I used to go regularly when we only paid double what Thais do.
Since they jacked the prices I have been once in five years. So I guess
they are making lots more money off me now huh?p.p.s did you see on that
cost of living index that Honolulu is the second most expensive place to
live in the US now???! Alaskans get paid for the oil they have, maybe we
should start whaling again and all get paid blubber dividends!