Anti ISA March 2009

1 08 2009

It happened!

I had long planned to organise a new media workshop in KL on 1st August. My facilitator had already bought a flight ticket. I was told that there would be an anti Internal Security Act (ISA) demonstration on that day and a few people could not join. I still went ahead with my plan until I received sms from a friend asking me to call off my workshop. The message warned that a few roads would be blocked and since the workshop venue is located at the city centre it would be difficult for participants to travel to. I smsed a few friends to get confirmation which made me even more confused. Some said the demonstration would not be huge like the one in November 2007 when the ethnic Indian protested. However, the majority said that it might be huge and definitely main road would be blocked. After several exchanged of sms, I decided to call it off!

I planned to observe the situation since I would be in KL. However, I missed it. My programme in Cameron Highlands run late. I had to cancel my dinner meeting on 31st July and to reschedule it on 1st August. When I was having a discussion, I was told that the police blocked a few main road since last night. No wonder on my way back to KL, a lot of police were checking on our car.

Anyway, the first information I received was that a few people were arrested and tear gas and water cannon were fired at protesters. My meetings went on as usual until late afternoon. Then I received a call from a friend saying that two people whom I know were arrested. She said that they were about to leave after a peaceful protest then the police arrested them. Luckily they were released a few hours later.

Well, I have been asking myself whether it was a right decision to postpone the workshop since we had everything planned. The action today confirmed it was the right decision. It happened. The road closure led to dramatic traffic in KL today. A few online news portal declared it a success for the Opposition as it did damage to the government. That is politics and this is not meant to be a political message. I should then end it here…

Conspiracy Theory: Sondhi Limthongkul Assassination attempts

23 07 2009

Who attempted to assassinate Sondhi Limthongkul, Thai media tycoon, a leader of People’s Alliance for Democracy and a royalist?

There are a few schools of thought. Let’s look at two possibilities out of those fews. First, the bill to kill was issued by the royalty since Sondhi himself when asked pointed his fingers to the palace. Second, it was an attempt by his most wanted enemy a former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Well one might question whether both have enough motives to commit the crime?

Let’s look at the first theory. Why does the palace ordered a bill to kill Sondhi since he is a royalist and his yellow protesters are for the King? Well, the palace does not mean only the King does it? It covers a wide range of people behind it. One may also consider the old saying: when the war is won, the general is killed. But the yellow has not won the people war here. Their attempt ended with the closure of the airport which met with people resistance and anger. How can an innocent and well respected person who is behind the yellow protest get out of this situation? To distance oneself? Sondhi has a great influence in the PAD and having him killed would perhaps solve the problem as the yellow protest will slowly die down.

Second school of thought would argue it is so obvoius who attempted to assasinate Sondhi. It can be no one else except his long time enemy Thaksin Shinawatra. We all know that although Thaksin resides outside Thailand, his influence in the country is tremendous. Referring to the deputy police chief who heads the investigation, he said it was a combined effort between the Police and the Military. The person who has a power to order both forces to commit this kind of act must be someone who is in a commanding position. The person can be someone in the current government someone who would benefit from Sondhi’s death. This links well to the latest interview given by the Gen Thani, head of police investigation who instead of reporting the progress to the Police Chief, he chose to report directly to Prime Minister Abhisit. It will have yet to be seen if Abhisit has the gut to go after the person who is behind the case.

Whatever will happen at the end of the investigation, I feel that the government will not be able to reveal the whole truth. They too have to rely on others for thier survival and for their political future. The public will have to live in the dark. Thais can easily forget what happen no matter how serious it is, can we?

Thailand to beef up security for regional forum: latest interview

16 07 2009

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said that he would invoke a harsh internal security act to prevent protests at a regional summit in Phuket next week.

Mr Abhisit said the cabinet had agreed to declare the internal security act in Phuket and five kilometres around the tourist island from July 10 to 24 for the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting.

The forum groups foreign ministers from the 10 ASEAN members plus 16 dialogue partners, including the United States, China, Japan and South Korea.

The move comes after an incident in April when anti-government protesters loyal to ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, forced the cancellation of a major Asian summit in the Thai resort of Pattaya. The declaration will allow the military to assist the police at the meeting.

So, what measures the authorities will likely put in place during the summit?

938LIVE poses this question to Dr Pimrapaat Dusadeeisariyakul, program manager of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Bangkok.

“The government will impose Internal Security Act as if they fill it’s necessary to do so. I think there will unofficial soldiers and police put in place in Phuket. Because they can never be challenged like they were in Pattaya. If I can refer to the situation in Pattaya, you see a lot of blue shirt guards. They are not with the government and they are not with the Red protesters. But they are somehow linked to one of the component parties in the current government. As far as I can see, you can have those kind of people in Phuket just to make sure that things do not get out of hands again.”

Leaders of the Red Shirts group had said that they have no intention of trying to disrupt the Phuket meetings. Do you think they can keep their promise as they are still demanding that the government should call for a general election?

 “They said that they wouldn’t break in to the conference during the meeting in Pattaya, and they did. And things went out of hands. So we can not be so sure that they wouldn’t do it again in Phuket. So I think the government has to be very careful in dealing with the situation and planning it so well in advance. I think they should have troops in place maybe not in large number but smaller to make sure that the protestors can not get closer to the delegates to the meetings. Because last time there was a debate right after the Pattaya meeting. But there was no law in Thailand that says like how many kilometers that you cannot get close to the meeting. Now I think the police are eventually aware that they cannot allow protestors to get closer to the delegates or to the meeting venue like how far they can go. So I think this time they are better prepared.”

According to Thailand’s constitution, under what circumstances will the government be forced to go for snap polls?

“Vote of no confidence in the parliament, that’s one thing. But if you follow the situation in Thailand close enough, you will listen to a statement by Prime Minister Abhisit. He said many times that once situation put in place he will dissolve the house and call for an early election. I think now all parties are prepared for a general election anyway, either before end of the year or before the King’s birthday in December or early next year. So I think it now depends very much on the assessment of the prime minister. Because the component parties did not do well in the by election and there is a constant internal conflict within the coalition. So we can say that the government is very fragile and they will call for an election anyway, it’s just a matter of time, because this type of coalition can not survive for so long. I think the government realises it right from the beginning.”

Mr Abhisit must bring unity to his coalition to ensure his government’s survival. Is his coalition likely to fall apart, and if so, what are main causes behind its collapse?

“Now we have to refer to why this coalition government was formed in the beginning. Because the Democrat Party did not have enough majority to form it, right? And now when they have Bhumjai Thai to form the coalition government, they were confident that BhumjaiThai could do better. And the result of the bi-election recently confirm that is not the case. So after the result of the bi-election, then you hear a lot of stories about Unity government that DP might form another coalition government with Puea Thai. So that’s one possibility and I can say that it’s still possible. The other is that they can form the same coalition government after the next election and Bhumjai Thai has to perform better. Without Bhumjai Thai, Democrat party can not form a government anyway.” With a big turnout at a rally of his supporters and another landslide by-election win for his party at the weekend, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has proved he is still a force in Thai politics, even in exile. How strong is Thaksin’s support in the country now? “Very strong. And I need to refer again to the bi-election result, because we thought Democrat Party has been doing better with all the component parties in the coalition government. But it doesn’t prove to be the case as I mentioned it earlier. So that also confirms that Thaksin is very strong in the rural areas especially in the north and northeast. And he has powerful people in those areas who can work for him and he doesn’t need to be present in the country at all.” Analysts say the strengthening of Thaksin’s parliamentary and extra-parliamentary movements could plunge Thailand into deeper political turmoil, stifling economic recovery efforts and heightening the risk of more civil unrest. What are your thoughts on the issue? “I think it will have the same impact on the economy and political and social division in the country as when the Red protestors did it. So, it’s not very healthy in the country with social division and political polarisation because we cannot have a short term solution for this. And it will adverse impact on our economy and out political stability because we may have an election either end of the year or early next year, but it doesn’t mean that it will preaid stability. The country will not be stabilised for a number of years.” Click on the above speaker to hear this on podcast.

Thai MPs are shameless

20 05 2009

Recently we heard that the Daily Telegraph newspaper has published leaked documents showing how British MPs claimed from the public purse for everything from food and drink to maintenance work for a swimming pool, a tennis court and even a castle moat. When that news broke out, I talked to my sister that that MP will soon resign. True to form, Michael Martin, the speaker of the House of Commons announced his resignation.

“In order that unity can be maintained, I have decided that I will relinquish the office of speaker on Sunday June 21” said Michael Martin, who resigned over an MPs’ expenses scandal which has plunged Britain into its worst political crisis for years and outraged voters.

Another case which is still fresh in my memory is the case of Japan’s Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa who resigned, amid claims that he was drunk at a recent G7 meeting.

Looking back at the current affairs in Thailand where a first time MP from Bhumjaithai Party Chartchai Pookyaporn is asked to quit for failing to attend party meetings and join in other party activities, he initially seemed to have accepted the offer. I remember I said “Wow if this is true, we can have write a new chapter in Thai politics”. For me, it is difficult to see any member of parliament to offer to quit as he has everything to gain.

True to my expectation, he reversed his decision saying that he will not quit as deputy agriculture minister and will try to attend all party meetings and activities from now on. For Thai MP, once grabs the opportunity to sit in the parliament, you can not expect them to leave the seat unless you offer them something bigger. This might not be fair to a Democrat Minister who resigned earlier. But his case is rare and very special.

In Chartchai’s case, he may have a will to fight the party but Bhumjaithai Party leader Chavarat Charnvirakul insists he will replace Chartchai Pookyaporn as deputy agriculture and cooperatives minister despite his insistence on staying in the cabinet. The party annual assembly to be held on 21 May is an intersting event to watch: Can Chartchai survive in his struggle for power?

Kick boxing in the parliament is our norm

15 05 2009

When there is a physical fight in the parliament, we often refer to an incident in the Taiwanese parliament where parliamentarians physically fought when they could not agree with each other. Last year, we witnessed the first round of PPP’s MP Karun Hosakul and Somkiat from Democrat Party. We felt embarrass and did not expect it to happen again.Yesterday, however, unexpectedly, we again witnessed the second round of kick boxing between MPs of Peua Thai and Democrat.

Is this our norm to fight physically when we can not agree with one another? We can not simply just talk thing through any more. It seems that parliamentarians do not have respect for the parliament. Why they are there then?

We often look down at Taiwanese parliamentarians in the past. Now it is the turn of others to look down at Thai parliamentarians. It is high time to gear towards reconciliation. Can the current government solve this problem? How can public be reassured that this embarrassing act of parliamentarians would not happen again and again. Do not allow people to feel that it is the norm, it is not.

Podcast dummy on new media – just for fun

28 04 2009

Podcast Worskhop

28 04 2009

When I attended the capacity building workshop in February this year, I proposed a podcast workshop instead of vcast and I wonder why I did that. I am now attending a workshop I proposed but to find out that it is not popular in a country I work in and wonder how I should go about it.

I think podcast is something that not many are intersted in because we like to see things while listening. Listening without visual tends not to keep people attention long, maximum would be about 10 min.

But what happen if we have an interesting topic and intersting peopleton our show. That could be something! The solution is likely to be then I start doing my first episode soon for my project and leave it for a while. Then check with friends if we should continue and just scrap it. Good solution?????