Thai Media Project – March 2008

Thailand #2 in corruption - Krungtepturakit, March 14, 2008
At the bottom left it reads: Wonder that we can’t get the first level!!
Samak says: Who is PERC? They just read the Thai newspapers [which has many stories about corruption] and then assertively say that Thailand is number two in the corruption problem. How can it be?

This is a reference to a report last week ranking Thailand as behind the Philippines as the most corrupt country in Asia.

RP, Thailand among most corrupt Asian economies -- survey - AFP, March 10, 2008
...As in the 2007 survey, Thailand remained the second most corrupt economy after the Philippines with a score of 8.0 after the military, which seized power in a coup in 2006, was seen to have failed to tackle the problem.
"The kingdom's economy has been marking time for two years while it sorts out political problems in which allegations of corruption figure prominently," said PERC...

Judicial authority - translated and summarized from Thai Rath, March 12, 2008
Ministry of Justice Permanent Secretary Charan Pakdeethanakul has recently opined that the government should concentrate on the administration of the country, and not interfere with the powers of the law courts and other judicial organizations. I wish to comment that the current People Power Party (PPP) majority government and cabinet - as headed by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej - should reconsider the manner in which they are running the country. This PPP-led government has already conducted a whole series of transfers of government officials since it was sworn into power. These included the transfers of the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) Chief, the National Police Chief and 30 others. It should be noted that the DSI is directly involved in the investigation of legal proceedings against deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and I believe that this government is likely to get itself into a great deal of trouble if these transfers compromise the judicial process.
People’s rights and liberty - translated and summarized from Thai Rath, March 13, 2008
Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said the movement of the People’s Alliance for Democracy has negatively affected the nation’s image among other countries. The columnist is surprised to hear such a comment from the lawyer-minister, which is against the principle of democracy and certain constitutional provisions regarding people’s rights to express their views and gather in a public place. The columnist wonders which countries the foreign minister mentioned as democratic countries around the globe consider such a political movement an ordinary activity. On the contrary, countries worldwide have negative attitudes towards a state prohibiting its people to protest, gather, or view their opinions.

The people who really destroy the country’s image - translated and summarized from Thai Rath, March 15, 2008
According to a survey conducted by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, the Philippines is the most corrupt Asian economy while Thailand has been ranked second for two consecutive years. Meanwhile, Singapore retained its ranking as the cleanest economy in Asia. The survey covers 13 economies in Asia and was conducted among 1,400 expatriate businessmen. The columnist believes the ranking also reflects the degrees of democracy as the administrations of countries which strictly follow democratic practices will run the countries transparently. On Thailand, a certain minister recently stated that political movements by a people’s organization [the People’s Alliance for Democracy] have negatively affected the country’s image and driven foreign investors away. The question is: what really does affect the kingdom’s image between such political movements and the survey by a foreign institution?

Fear management - translated and summarized from Krungtep Turakit editorial, March 18, 2008
The government must work harder to achieve its targets. This is especially true when it comes to dealing with the fears of people living in the southern border provinces, and when trying to regain their confidence. Insurgents have created great fear in the hearts of the people of the region, and have coerced them into both being distant to the state and not cooperating with its local officials.
There are two major problems that the state has in its dealings with southerners: Locals distrust the state, and are not prepared to cooperate with it in any significant way. Many residents of the region fear that the government will not provide them with security in times of peril. Indeed, they often believe that they are actually imperiling their own lives by cooperating too much with the state. The car bomb at the CS Pattani Hotel - in Pattani Province on March 15 - furthered increased such local fears.
All these factors have reduced the confidence of many southerners in the state. Such factors also appear to have dashed any hopes for the establishment of a sustainable peace in the region.
A network of southern citizens - who have come together to oppose the actions of the insurgents - held a press conference recently, to express their feelings and opinions about the conflict that has engulfed their region.

Chance for farmers? - translated and summarized from Matichon, March 26, 2008
Deputy Minister of Commerce Wirut Techapaiboon has stated that the price of rice is likely to reach a new high this year, and thereafter remain high for at least a further two years. The Rice Exporters’ Association has also said that the price of FOB 100% White Rice could hit 1,000 USD per tonne, from the current level of 556 USD. The export price of Jasmine Rice is also expected go beyond 1,000 USD per tonne, from the current level of 790 USD.
The cruelly-high current oil prices have led to a global decrease in the storage of rice, with stored grains dropping from 130 million tonnes to 70 million tonnes. Farmers are now also turning to the growing of other agricultural crops. The production of rice is currently in decline, while the demand for it is rising.
Some commodity experts see these developments as a good opportunity for rice growers to improve their income. The government needs to ensure that it is farmers that receive the benefits of these higher prices - and not just commodity speculators.

Thais suffering severe social tensions - translated and summarized from
Matichon, March 25, 2008
A 23 year-old female lecturer at Assumption University - an honors graduate of a reputed university - has sent shockwaves running through both her immediate family and Thai society in general by committing suicide as the result of a broken heart. I believe our society needs to reconsider how it allows its citizens to deal with modern tensions. This case has led to numerous people asking why it is that such a highly-educated person is unable to survive such a personal mental crisis. This story has brought the whole issue of suicide amongst our young people to the attention of the government and its various relevant agencies. The media and educational institutes are now also wondering how they can promote certain social values - in accordance with both Buddhist practice and the speeches of Their Majesties the King and Queen - that will better guide troubled Thais through their personal travails and onto greater happiness.

The public press is not the government’s press - translated and summarized from Thai Rath, March 27, 2008
Prime Minister’s Office Minister Jakrapob Penkair has recently stated that Thai TV Channel 11 is to become a national broadcasting channel with an increased role as an official media outlet of the state - in addition to airing its more traditional programming to the public. Five radio stations will also be reorganized to better serve the government’s dissemination of information to the media. I would like to inform readers that the Constitution stipulates that the role of ‘state media’ is primarily to serve the public need - and not to serve the sitting government. If the public is to continue receiving unbiased news, it will be necessary to keep a vigilant look out for government interference in the media - to ensure that it does not overstep the mark laid down by the Constitution.

Let the Constitutional Court provide judgment! - translated and summarized from Thai Rath, March 22, 2008
Compared to the previous Electoral Commission (EC) line-up, it can clearly be seen that the current EC lacks unity. EC members now always express their individual opinions on each case - especially on the interpretation of the law. Individual members clearly also have widely-divergent political views.
In the previous EC, several members announced that the decision to hand a red or yellow card to a candidate or to disband a political party depended entirely on interpretation of the law - without any regard to the political impact that might follow. A few days ago, however, one EC member said that he did not favor the disbanding of any political party - saying that it could result in the country falling into turmoil, and that this would mean allocating budget for a new election. This EC member added that the term ‘nominee’ did not exist in current electoral law.
This opinion is obviously contrary to previous EC pronouncements.
Another case, which shows the current disunity of the EC, is that of the People Power Party (PPP). One EC sub-committee has stated its disapproval of any move to disband the PPP and the Matchima Thipataya Party. This is contrary to the opinion of another EC member, Sumet Upanisakorn. Sumet has said that, in strict accordance with the law, he believes the EC has no other option than to disband the two parties.
It remains to be seen which of these two stances the EC will prioritize: Accordance with the strict letter of the law or a concern for possible political fallout. One important fact is certain, however. The EC will always be forced to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of unceasing political trickery.

Revising the Constitution for political advantage is inappropriate and unjust - translated and summarized from Krungtep Turakit, March 24, 2008
Three coalition parties - the People Power Party (PPP), the Chart Thai Party and the Matchima Thipataya Party - are currently applying pressure for the revision of several sections of the 2007 Constitution. The three parties claim that several sections of the publicly-endorsed Constitution are not democratic, and were included under the duress of the dictatorial power of the time. These three parties, however, have yet to directly mention an intention to revise Section 237 - which details the disbandment of any political party whose leadership breaks electoral law.
It is quite clear that this move is driven by the fact that each of the executive committees of these three parties has received a ‘red’ card for electoral misconduct. Indeed, the Constitutional Court is now considering whether to disband these parties. Although there are some sections of the 2007 Constitution that are clearly not democratic in spirit, it possesses - in its entirety - many advantages when compared to its predecessor.
Constitutional revisions could lead to a loss of good governance in the long term. They could also have an impact on the ability of this administration to deliver reliable governance to those by whom it was elected.

Military involvement in industrial development approved - to revive economy in 5 southern provinces - Chalerm says he may go to Denmark to talk to leading insurgents - translated and summarized from Matichon, March 22, 2008
At yesterday’s meeting of a government special committee - chaired by Prime Minister & Defense Minister Samak Sundaravej - to consider the development of the southern provinces, committee members approved a policy to allow the military to cooperate with industry in the setting up of new industrial enterprises in the region. It is believed that this move could help to develop the flagging economies of five southern provinces: Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani, Songkhla and Satun. The Southern Border Provinces Administration Center (SBPAC) has proposed a ratio of 9:3:3:5 for the proportion of investment that the military will make in Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani and Songkhla Provinces respectively.
The approved plan for military and industrial cooperation envisages that the military will hold a 51% share in any new company start-up, with the remaining 49% held by private investors. The plan will be entitled ‘3+4’, which indicates that it will cover 3 southern provinces (Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani) and 4 districts of Songkhla Province.
Police Captain Chalerm Yoobamrung - the Interior Minister - also talked about the possibility of negotiations with southern insurgent organizations. Chalerm said the overtures towards such a meeting were proceeding well. He also urged exiled insurgents to return to Thailand to fight lawsuits filed against them, and guaranteed that provisions would be made for their personal security. He added that exiled insurgents in Sweden had told him that they favored holding any future talks with the Thai Government in Denmark
Army says southern insurgents incapable of becoming ‘international’ terrorists - translated and summarized from Phujatkan, March 20, 2008
General Akara Thiprot - the Spokesman of the Royal Thai Army - yesterday granted a media interview on the subject of the recent issuance of a US Government travel advisory. The travel advisory warned US citizens not to visit Thailand’s three southernmost border provinces (Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat). Gen. Akara said it was normal for the US Government to issue such an advisory, as the Thai Government would do the same for its citizens if faced with a similar situation.
Concerning the Prime Minister’s recent statement that southern insurgents might attempt to raise the profile of their criminal activities on the international stage, Gen. Akara commented that the insurgents had never really expressed any long-term goals. He reminded the media that the insurgents were loath to provide any advance warning on the likely times, locations and methods of their attacks. He accused the insurgents of only wishing to demonstrate that they were capable of carrying out criminal attacks, and added that this made it impossible for them to be perceived as ‘international’ terrorists.
Gen. Akara also commented that the Prime Minister’s recent visit to the South would be insufficient, per se, to bring any immediate relief to the region’s conflict - but added that the PM was already being well-appraised of the situation in the region on a daily basis.

Rock throwing - Arun, Krungtepturakit, March 14, 2008
At the bottom it reads: New danger
At the far right, the car driver is saying: Wear a helmet also
[This is a reference to the present dangerous craze of young people throwing stone into the windshields of passing cars.]

News weeklies - March 11, 2008

Left: Nation Weekend - He's not my boyfriend. I cannot do this on his behalf.

[Both news weeklies have cover stories featuring the singer Lidea, widely rumored by the Thai press to be romantically involved with Thaksin. The Nation also featured Lidea on the inaugural of its Xpress.]

Right: Matichon Weekly - One second too late [the title of a her latest song]

Senate’s most important duties are to restore faith and maintain freedom - translated and summarized from Krungthep Turakit, March 3, 2008
The number of people who voted in the country’s Senate election was less than expected. This probably indicates that the public neither understand nor realize the importance and duty of the Senate as set out by the widely-criticized 2007 Constitution.
This failure could be because the public currently have no faith in the abilities of their elected senators. Indeed, this might even be because the public was dissatisfied with the work of previous senators. The public may lack understanding of the role of the Senate, and may also not realize the extent of its powers as laid down by the 2007 Constitution.
All 150 senators - both elected and selected under the provisions of the 2007 Constitution - should now demonstrate a unity of purpose, if they are to prove to the public that the Senate is fully capable of balancing and scrutinizing the work of both members of parliament and the cabinet.
All senators should be seen to work independently of parliament, and should not side with any one political party. In this way they may be able to restore public faith in their role, and strengthen and improve Thailand’s democracy.

Unqualified ministers under consideration for dismissal? - translated and summarized from Krungtep Turakit, March 10, 2008
Concerning the current attempt to gather the names of 20,000 public health officials in order to put pressure on the government to remove the Public Health Minister Chaiya Sasomsub. I believe that this is an opportune moment to examine closely what is really going on in this ministry. Soon after Chaiya took over his ministerial post, he was subjected to a barrage of strong criticism over his widely-perceived poor decision-making in a number of important cases that come under the ministry’s jurisdiction. These cases included his [initial] decision to scrap compulsory licensing of certain pharmaceuticals, and his transfer of the ‘Food and Drug Administration’ Secretary-General. The Public Health Minister has already demonstrated his imprudence on several occasions, and it now seems highly doubtful whether he possesses sufficient shrewdness of judgment to truly qualify for a ministerial post.

One nation, two prime ministers - translated and summarized from Komchadluek, March 6, 2008
Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s return is clearly being perceived by many as having effectively created a country run by two prime ministers. High-ranking government officials, who might have an agenda contrary to that of the ousted prime minister, have already been transferred. The current Prime Minister - Samak Sundaravej - must realize that this has caused great public concern, with many demanding an explanation of the situation from the country’s elected prime minister.
It should be remembered that the person who called on Samak Sundaravej to be the head of the People Power Party (PPP) was none other than Thaksin Shinawatra himself.
In principle, the Kingdom should have only one prime minister - and that premier’s name should be Samak Sundaravej. Samak should have full power to administer the country without having to concern himself about outside influences.
As the elected leader of this country, Samak must be answerable on all issues concerning the country and its administration. People will continue to have a perception of ‘one country - two prime ministers’ as long as they continue to doubt that truth is being spoken by either of these two people.

Armed forces come under attack in the news - on issues ranging from ‘Don Muang 51’ to disappearing guns - translated and summarized from Komchadluek; Column: Talui Kong Tap; Author: Security reporters, March 2, 2008
The following may all figure in an elaborate plot to use the media to discredit the armed forces: The establishment of the ‘Don Muang 51’ anti-terrorist group, its possible deployment to provide security for the return of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and the recent disappearance of firearms from a military armory.
A special military force has been established by Supreme Command HQ for the purpose of countering international terrorist attacks. The group undertook its initial training session, under the codename of ‘Don Muang 51’, during the period February 19 - 22. Many observers are closely-monitoring this group, as its initial training session took place only a few days before the return of a former leader of the country from exile.
Some say that the ‘Don Muang 51’ group was set up to provide security for the return of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on February 28. A total of 792 officers, from 40 organizations, were involved in the initial training session.
According to some sources, Supreme Commander Gen. Boonsang Niampradit has been forced to make a statement to the effect that the group’s initial training session was not in preparation for the return of Thaksin Shinawatra. It is believed that this lack of transparency in the group’s establishment could result in some discredit to the armed forces.
Some sources are also saying that they believe that the recent disappearance of three firearms, from the armory of a military unit, was part of a plot to ambush Thaksin Shinawatra on his return from exile.
It is noticeable that all current news emanating from the armed forces, both good and bad, is acting to their discredit.

If magical powers existed... - Matichon, March 2, 2008
If magical powers existed,
Top, left to right: Chaiya Sasomsap would be turned into Chaiya Mitrchai. [Chaiya, Minister of Public Health is ridiculed for his proposal to end compulsory licensing of drugs or it could be related to his unpopularity in the ministry after the transfer of the chief of the Food and Drug Administration. It is said he would like to be Chaiya Mitrchai, a Thai Likey hero.]
The Chairman would make the red cards white. [Yongyuth, the red carded speaker of the house, would reverse his fate.]
The puppet would give itself life. [PM Samak is widely regarded as a puppet of Thaksin.]
Bottom, left to right: The owner of this hotel [Peninsula Hotel where Thaksin stayed on his return from exile] would keep his “Chan Song La” home [Thaksin’s residence] under repair for a longer period of time.
[Thaksin claimed he had to stay at the the Peninsula after his return from aboard because his home was being repaired. Most people understood that Thaksin's safety could be assured better at the Peninsula than at his residence. The nearly 1,000,000 baht a night price tag for rooms for him and his entourage was widely reported in the Thai-language press.]
Meechai would turn his chair into NLA President so he did not have to blame the computer system. [Last year, NLA speaker Meechai Ruchuphan intervened in the drafting of key critical laws, personally entering details into the government computer even though he was not involved in the drafting committees or subcommittees. He blame this behavior on the fact that he was speeding the process on--instead on the widely held view that he was carrying out influence from the coup junta.]
Many people would make Thaksin Shinawatra and Sonthi Limthongkul forgetful. [Sonthi Limthongkul led the protests against Thaksin. This is saying many people wish these feuds would end.]

Invisible hand -Thai Rath, March 2, 2008
Invisible hand (or unseen hand)
Top left to right: An invisible hand drove a car and just parked it until it was covered in dust. [Probably a reference to the gang that conned people out of their cars. Some of these cars were recovered at police stations where they had been parked.]
An invisible hand stole monk robes and things donated by Buddhists. [Probably referring to recent complains about thefts from wats.]
An invisible hand, please find my Persian cat wearing a diamond necklace and give him back to me. [Recently in the news: A man placed an expensive necklace he intended to give to his girlfriend around his cat's neck and the cat ran away.]
Bottom left to right: An invisible hand hid a million baht in cash under the bed donated to a temple. [Recently a million baht was found in the headboard of a bed donated to a wat.]
An invisible hand is trying to frustrate the premier for money. [PM Samak accused an invisible hand of hiring the media to write negative stories about him.]
An invisible hand called three ECT board members to make bomb threat. [Recently a bomb threat was made against Election Commission headquarters]

How to put the kingdom in order in an appropriate manner - translated and summarized from Thai Rath, March 4, 2008
During the ‘Samak Talk’ program that was broadcast live on national radio and television channels last Sunday, Prime Minister Samak discussed audience feedback that favored people being allowed to gamble legally. The PM said that he agreed with such proposals, as government-sanctioned gambling was allowed in other countries.
The Thaksin Government also once proposed a plan to set up legal casinos, but the plan progressed no further. It did, however, manage to launched a government-sanctioned lottery - that it named ‘Huai Bon Din’. This populist measure was well-received by the public, but was terminated during the Surayud administration - with Prime Minister Gen. Surayud declaring it illegal.
The Surayud Government eventually attempted, unsuccessfully, to enact its own form of legal lottery.
We suggest that this elected government should revive the legal lottery, as it will undoubtedly generate high revenues for the country. We believe that all gambling activities should be legalized, and placed on a sound legal footing.

Ready for Thaksin - by Buncha/Kamin, Manager, March, 2008
The name of the column is "Chim pai Da pai." "Chim" means "taste" and "da" means "abuse." This is a play on the name of Samak's cooking program "Chim pai Bon pai."
At the top it reads: 2 necessary equipment for the day that Thaksin comes home
Left: Tissue to wipe tears for the one who is crazy about Thaksin
Right: Spittoon for vomit from the one who does not like Thaksin

Weekend news mags - March, 2008

Left: Matichon Weekly: Siam War II
Return of Thaksin

Right: Nation Weekend: Auspicious Rajah, the auspices of coming home

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