Tag Archives: Politics

The Boiling Black Songkran

blacksongkran

Looking at the heat via the Intertube

The riot in Thailand has spoiled Thai New Year, Songkran celebration. The crash caused the cancellation of ASEAN Summit in Pattaya. Red Shirt occupied main traffic routes in Bangkok, the state of emergency was declared and the military was ordered by the Government to get the city back to order. That did not help them over the accusation of being backed by the military. However, the situation has been dissolved, for now. The Government won the battle, this time.

Outside Thailand, I watch the colourful event turned black only from my laptop. Streaming live from Thai television networks and twitter updated me. The story was recapped by the major networks on YouTube as well as raw footage from people on the ground. The word democracy was over used. It struck the most me when the representatives from the both sides had their chances on live interview with foreign journalists and they blew it.

It looks like they have no idea how fierce BBC, CNN or Al Jazeera can be to get what they what to know. They do their homework and can attack you as a lightning. It is their job to nail you on the spot. If you cannot get away with it, you become a fool on the global scale rather than spread your agenda.

Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, is ahead on this game. His British academic background helps him get through foreign media. On the contrary, Thaksin Shinawatra, the key figure of this political turmoil, and anti-government protest leaders sound shaky and unconvincing. They just cannot buy any creditability of their actions when they speak to the professional interviewers.

However, Gile Ungpakorn, who is also in exile for Lese Majeste charge, gives us the most concrete ground on Red Shirt movement.

It is inevitable that Thailand is in the international community and the nation economy almost entirely depends on exports, foreign investment and tourism. Who will be the front face of the country to deal with the international diplomats and media? Could Thailand afford to have the one who looks like in self-denial run the country whichever what colour they are?

Politics and Technology Forum 2009

Q  A

The destination of the Yass/Canberra road trip was Politics and Technology Forum organised by Microsoft. Stilgherrian has live blog of the forum.

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Thailand Election Map 2007-2009


Move your mouse over the image to see the 2009 map. (It is not too long to wait for the second image loaded.)

Move your mouse over to see the 2009 map

I cannot find any visual data on by-election in Thailand to compare with the election in 2007 so I have to do it myself. Because this election is the first test of the new Government led by the Democrat and pro-Thaksin protesters (red shirts) do not like it, it is interesting to see how the votes swing.

Even though the coalition gains some stability with 20 more seats in the parliament, the country still struggles to find the way to reconcile their stands. It seems divided into two and he change is just too small to get excited.

Disclaimer:

  • This is not an actual representative of data. I just simply estimate it.
  • This map is not weighted by the number of MP in each province. For instance, Bangkok would be the biggest in proportion with 39 members.
  • It does not take a genius why I use red to represent the PPP and Peua Thai Party but why not yellow for the Democrat. Because they both are different creatures. Besides their colour is blue.
  • The years represented in the map are in B.E.
  • I would love to go deep down to electorate level. Unfortunately, it is not going to happen without the full map of Thailand. I am not that nerdy.

Thai Politics in Black and White

People Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has taken over Thai Government House and the two biggest airports. The political unrest is now taking a huge effect on economy. Stilgherrian writes a clear summery on the current crisis. To understand Thai politics, we need to acknowledge what is unique about her political timeline and social turning points.

Since the reform of in social and economical structures in the Kingdom of Siam to survive Colonialism in the reign of King Chulalongkorn, Thai/Siamese world has never been the same again. The royal government was forced to step down from its power by overseas graduates and the military in 1932. English constitutional monarchy and parliament system were adopted to build Siamese democracy. Then the coup itself split into difference ideologies.

World War II had less effect on the country than other nations because they were not concerned about winning, losing or gaining independence whereas in the Cold War, Thailand was standing right beside the mess of it. In the 1970s, the uprising of student movements and protests successfully stopped American military presence in its shore. And the fear of Communism led to the tragedy of the massacre in Thammasat University.

The military has been a big player of Thai political vicious cycle since the first coup. The simplified cycle is a coup, an appointed government, a new constitution draft, a general election, an elected government, a corrupt government, media circus, anti-government protests and a coup. The nasty ones were on 6 October 1976 and in May 1992. Although many missing people are yet to be found, those two events caused completely outcomes on the society.

That day in October is still suppressed in Thai modern history, even ex-Prime Minister, Samak Sundravej, is still in denial. It was a victorious declaration of the military dictatorship over the accused Communism. On contrary, the violence in 1992 would be the last time the army laid their hands on it own people. Finger crossed.

On the other hand, one political party that is always there is the Thai Democrat. They are the oldest and the most conservative of all the players in terms of their operation. Some analyses say that there are only two major political parties in Thailand: The Democrat and the Others. The Others mean any party which forms big enough to be the contestant and it does not necessary last such as Chat Thai Party, New Hope Party, Thai Rak Thai Party and its old band, People Power Party.

Basically, these parties have the electoral based in the North and Esarn (Thai north-eastern region) while The Democrat strong hold is in the South. Bangkok voters are swingers. They usually shift the votes amongst the two and some third neutral party. Bangkok Governor election is used to indicate the popularity since Bangkok has the most number of Members of Parliament in one area. At the moment Bangkok seems to in the favour of The Democrat.

On top of that, The Democrat always fight by the book, distance themselves from any other conflicts and be careful not to associate with any military coups or protesters. Recently, Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Party leader, offers himself as the middleman between PAD and the Government.

Thailand is not unfamiliar with political polarisation at all. You either stuck to absolute monarchy or supported constitutional monarchy. You could not be a Socialist, it was a Communist who you were. And now, we have the anti-government (yellow corner) and the pro-Thaksin (red corner). It is all painted in black and white, and this division is the biggest ever.

Thaksin Chinawatra is most controversial political figure in Thai history. He combines business tycoon practices into his political strategies and touches the soft spot of Thai society that no one have done before. For the first time someone reaches to the poor. For the first time an elected Prime Minister does something for them. The superb marketing plans, as known as policies, gives them radical and tangible projects to help them and keeps reminding them of whom delivers it.

Meanwhile, the wealthy Bangkok, a classic primate city story has been sucking all the resources in the country and becomes the centre of everything. The gap between two fundamental social statuses: the rural poor and urban middle class is widened. Its organic growth should not be affected until they noticed something dodgy behind the scenes. Here we go in the vicious cycle again.

However, two major leaders of PAD had closed tie to Thaksin. The founder, Sondhi Limthongkul, was an outspoken supporter of Thaksin until he started to criticise the Government and eventually his media outlets were shut down.

And when Thaksin first set his foot onto the politics, the penetration was made trough Chamlong Srimuang, the leader of Phalang Dharma Party of the time and is a key leader of the protester. Later on, the Party was handed over to him. Then he resigned from it and let it died out since there was no popularity left.

My big concern on this situation is not the confrontation between PAD and the Government but the people who wear yellow and red. They are all Thais after all. I wonder where all the Member of Parliament is. Should they be the voice of the people who elect them? Or are they busy forming a party for the next election?

The Unstoppable Samak

Samak Sundaravej

I have to say I am almost shattered with the unofficial result of the latest Thai General Election. It is likely to be in the favour of pro-Thaksin People’s Power Party (PPP). That means its leader, Samak Sundaravej (สมัคร สุนทรเวช), could get the first choice to be the next Thai Prime Minister and form the government. EEEWWWW!!!

He had been ministers many times and the hi-light would be the Minister of Transport while Thailand was in rise of bubble economy in the 80s where he could grant big projects under his authority. However, the long time in politics had taught him that he would never get to the top of the mountain because his strong base and supporters would never expand beyond Bangkok. So he’d rather be the big fish in a small pond and demote himself by going for local politics, which won him the Bangkok Governor title in 2000. But would that be enough for him? It could be until the big opportunity for him to grab the country’s strong hold of dissolved Thai Rak Thai voters and lead the party.

No one knows how long he would govern the country for, maybe until he lets Thaksin back in without any trials as promised or until another protest against his allies to lead to another coup. Have we learn something from the past at all? Here are some reminders:

I honestly cannot trust this low-rent doormat. Mind you! I did not go to vote and have not voted for almost a decade since I moved to Sydney. I have just got a new Thai ID card but it was too late to register for overseas voting this election. But I have a feeling I am not going have to wait for another four years to vote in the next election.