The Long Twilight of the Bangkok Governor

Long twilight of the Bangkok Governor - June 7, 2004

Several times in the past, 2Bangkok.com has mentioned the "Twilight of the Bangkok governor"--how Governor Samak announced a year ago he would not do anything in the last year in office.

There were warnings about him before he was elected--warnings that Samak was part of the old-guard of political life that considered themselves rulers of the people and that he was involved in the 1976 massares of student protesters.

Samak did start off with promises and proposals, continuing the former governor's Bhichit Rattakul's more active participation in city development and planning. However, the city government has no control of its funding--even collected taxes are held by the central government and doled out to the city at its whim. The Bangkok Governor has no choice but to march to the orders of party in power at the national level.

It is believed that this lack of atonomy caused Samak to withdrawl and become cynical. Others speculated a deal was cut with the Thai Rak Thai party for Samak to go slow and help pave the way for TRT's candidate (who by contrast would be responsive to the public, young, and perhaps a political novice in contrast to the old political guard Samak represents). Thaksin had also commented that Bangkok needs a governor would follow the line of the central government.

But as it ends up, TRT did not field a candidate (at least not officially). Samak is not blaming anyone for his inactivity. Maybe he is too much of a political insider to throw stones. Maybe he has agreed not to speak up for some reasion. Whatever the back story, Samak is left with a legacy of sour defensiveness and practically nothing accomplished as governor.

Please leave Governor Samak alone - The Nation, June 4, 2004
...As Samak's tenure comes to a close next month, people who voted for Samak are realising they have been had.
Instead of serving Bangkok diligently, as he pledged to, Samak has made hapless Bangkok residents work for him, particularly over the past two years when he has suddenly taken it easy on himself: no new policy initiatives, no new projects, and no one gets to see Samak in the news, except when he scolded critics who accused him, many would say rightly, of being inattentive and even lazy.
Samak has become famous for his sarcastic rebuttals. When motorists complained about flooded streets that resulted in the mother of all traffic jams, Samak retorted: "A governor's job does not involve wading into flood water, pushing stalled vehicles for the camera"...
Many City Hall observers believe Samak has burned himself out because too many of his projects have been scuttled by the Thaksin administration, which cash-strapped City Hall must rely on as its main source of funding...


Earlier:
Twilight of the Bangkok Governor - The Nation, July 26, 2003
Thursday was the third anniversary of Samak's governorship. He distributed 20,000 copies of a 70-page report on his third-year performance, citing various obstacles that had prevented him from solving several chronic problems.
"It's not necessary to boast about my achievements, as it is my responsibility," Samak said on Thursday. The governor said he did not want to put further effort into solving the problems.
"I don't have to do anything next year," he said. "People are going to criticise me anyway. And I don't have anything to worry about, even my popularity. I don't see any reason to run for re-election."
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