Thai Media Project – April 2008

More: Unlocking the Thai world: Thai-language newspaper headlines

From the Finland Declaration to the Nepal Strategy - Regime change through constitutional amendment and ballot - translated and summarized from Phujatkan, Author: Chiewchawana, April 29, 2008
Below, I have described the background history of Thaksin Shinawatra’s rise to power.
Thaksin Shinawatra did not begin his business career in the usual manner. His financial success in business owed more to his manipulation of influential contacts, rather than to his managerial acumen alone. Our (now) former Prime Minister struggled hard in his early career, in his efforts to take his telecommunications business to the country as a whole. Thaksin was ably assisted in this process by both his father and his politician cousin. Thaksin was eventually able to obtain a license, from the Thai state, to engage in the telecommunications industry at the national level. The success of that business eventually brought him great wealth. Thaksin went on to enter politics, and he established his Thai Rak Thai Party (TRT) in 1998 - on the same day on which the French monarchy had been deposed, 209 years earlier.  Thaksin was to spend a great deal of his own money building an effective campaign team for TRT. Many members of his ‘team’ were former members of the (Maoist) Communist Party of Thailand. The Thaksin ‘team’ also contained individuals who had previously supported the ‘October 14’ democratic reform movement. The formation of TRT was a great success, as certain groups of conservatives - in the TRT camp - appeared willing to eschew their former political philosophy for the benefits of Thaksin’s money. Thus Thai society was able to witness a growing political rift between the political aspirations of its disenchanted former Maoists and its old guard of bureaucrats - who continued to doggedly serve the notion of an ‘absolute monarchy’. These two political poles are now locked in mortal combat, with the former committed to serving the needs of modern-day capitalism, and the latter committed to preventing the rise of TRT’s capitalist supporters to the main seat of power.
Once TRT had succeeded in winning its first general election, Thaksin stepped up to lead the country in a thoroughly authoritarian and capitalist manner. He began to abuse his new-found power by paying little regard to the letter of the law. Indeed, it is because of Thaksin authoritarian parliamentary manner, and his promotion of single-minded notions of capitalism, that I now wish to express my defiance of his rule. It is obvious to me that our nation’s system of democracy, under a constitutional monarchy, faces grave risks from Thaksin’s continual craving for power. Thaksin is now able to largely dictate the course of Thai politics, in addition to being able to control the fate of those politicians who either favor or oppose him. During Thaksin’s tenure in government, a great deal of corruption is alleged to have taken place. It is also noteworthy that, after Thaksin’s initial rise to power, many websites sprang up to portray our monarchy in a negative light. The Thai Royalty commands the highest respect of the vast majority of Thais, but those wrongdoers who seek to discredit HM the King - many of whom receive Thaksin’s tacit support - have yet to receive the ultimate penalty [of lese majesté prosecution] for their crimes.  
The Thaksin governments abused many of the powers they were granted through the ballot box. Not only did the Thaksin administration initiate a policy that promoted the extra-judicial killing of drug-dealers, but it also used those same powers to victimize and silence its critics in non-governmental organizations.  
The September 19 coup in 2006 took place under the leadership of the Council for National Security (CNS). That coup was an attempt to oppose Thaksin’s attempt to rise to absolute power over all aspects of Thai society.  
From the September 19 Coup in 2006, through the CNS Government (2006-2007), up until the present day - In the aftermath of the 2006 coup, the CNS set up an interim government under the Prime Ministership of Gen. Surayud Chulanont. This government remained in power until December 2007. PM Surayud’s administration tried to pursue policies that promoted greater political peace and harmony in Thai society, but it proved to be incapable of ridding the country of Thaksin’s ‘absolutist’ undercurrents. The pro-Thaksin (AKA ‘old power’) group has now returned to run this country. I believe that this return places our constitutional monarchy in great jeopardy. It should be noted that many websites are once again openly engaged in denouncing the institutions of our monarchy - including the President of the Privy Council. This difference is that, this time around, these anti-monarchy groups are even more aggressive in their condemnations of our august institutions.

Worrisome situation - translated and summarized from Krungtep Turakit, Column: Political Developments, April 30, 2008
This government is currently facing not only political problems, but also economic problems. Indeed, these economic problems actually appear to be steadily worsening. It seems that this government is paying far too much attention to its plans to amend the 2007 Constitution, while the more worrisome issue of steeply-rising prices is being largely ignored. Since both oil and rice prices are also on the rise, this government will soon have to decide whether to increase fares for Bangkok’s Skytrain and MRT systems. Similar decisions will also be necessary over the annual National Minimum Wage adjustments, the annual salary adjustments for civil servants and the current factory prices of sugar. To add to this government’s woes, many ordinary people are now keeping a very close eye on the performance of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej - who is considered by some to be the political nominee of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra. If this government fails to solve these economic problems, unexpected challenges might soon arise to its power. These challenges could take the form of either the dissolution of Parliament or another coup d’etat. 

Red hot political strategy of the ‘Invisible hand’ - translated and summarized from Matichon; Column: Vipak Haeng Vipak, April 25, 2008
It seems that the People Power Party (PPP) is trying very hard to instigate amendments to the 2007 Constitution. Article 291 of the Constitution is considered to be one of the main targets of this amendment plan - in spite of there being considerable public opposition. The Chief Government Whip also seems to support the idea of constitutional amendment. We should not forget, however, that the Chief Whip is none other than Chai Chidchob. And also that his Assistant Whip is Samart Kaewwichai. Chai continues to receive the covert backing of his son Newin Chidchob - while Samart enjoys the secretive support of House Speaker Yongyuth Tiyapairat.  
So who is behind Newin and Yongyuth? The ‘Invisible Hand’ is the answer! It is frequently said that present-day Thai politics is greatly influenced by the so-called ‘Invisible Hand’. This ‘Invisible Hand’ was said to be behind both the September 2006 coup d’etat and the dissolution of the Thai Rak Thai Party. It was also said to be involved in the political alliance between the Democrat Party, the Chart Thai Party and the Puea Pandin Party. It was also rumored to have brought about the appointment of Samak Sundaravej as the PPP Leader - and eventually as the Prime Minister. It is even said to have led to the return of Chalerm Yoobamrung to a ministerial post.  
Thailand’s current political conflict is actually a war, in which one political camp’s ‘Invisible Hand’ is pitted against its counterpart in the opposing camp.  Regardless of which political faction eventually appears to win this war, it is - thus - absolutely inevitable that the true winner can only be the ‘Invisible Hand.'

People Power Party does what CNS did before - translated and summarized from Matichon; Column: Think Station No. 12; Author: Tawee Mee-ngern, April 24, 2008
Many people are questioning why the People Power Party (PPP) has dared to make overtures to revise the 2007 Constitution; in spite there being a common perception - nationwide - that such moves are being made for the party’s sake alone. PPP wish to amend Article 237 of the Charter, as a means to prevent their party from being disbanded. They also wish to amend Article 309, which could help former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to escape corruption charges.
Although the 2007 Constitution is not as clearly written as its 1997 predecessor, it is a fact that fourteen million Thai citizens - throughout this land - voted for its promulgation. If any party truly wishes to revise the current constitution, it should first remind itself of the large number of people who voted for that charter to be enacted.
It appears that the proposed amendments to the 2007 Constitution are not intended to improve the country’s democratic standing or create greater confidence among foreign investors - as some politicians have claimed. Foreign investors are usually concerned that elections take place, but do not generally wish to get involved in a country’s internal affairs. It is, perhaps, much more the case that investors desire that our Kingdom remains a stable environment - in which their investments will thrive.
Before we consider amending the 2007 Constitution, we need to figure out some sound reasons why such a step is really necessary. We also need to know exactly whom the planned revisions will benefit. Thais should demand that their politicians only act with a completely clear conscience, when it comes to such a major issue.
Right now, the Government and the People Power Party are setting out to do almost exactly the same thing that the Council for National Security (CNS) did during its tenure in power. This government - and this party - want to amend the law-of-the-land for their own benefit, and ensure that the revisions are retroactive.
The citizens of this country want the Government to alleviate their economic burden - but the Government only seems intent on amending the 2007 Constitution to avoid legal action from being taken against it.

The final struggle is yet to come - translated and summarized from Krungtep Turakit; Column: ‘Kluenwai’ article; Author: Pracha Burapawithee, April 25, 2008
A new round has just begun in the long-running fight between the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and the current government as led by the People Power Party. This fight reminds me of the sentiments expressed in the patriotic anthem called ‘L’Internationale’, which was sung by the French proletariat during its fight for the Commune of Paris in 1871.
A recent column in Krungthep Turakit [date unspecified] stated, “Tomorrow will mark the beginning of the final struggle to fend off the ascendancy of the ‘internationale’ in our country”. The columnist was discussing the PAD’s recent moves to begin a new round of mass protests - in its attempt to encourage some sectors of Thai society to oppose the PPP-led government’s proposed constitutional revisions. PAD is also attempting to thwart the possible return of ‘Thaksinism’ to the political arena - a movement that it believes runs contrary to this country’s development of a democratic system. The ‘Special Thailand Watch’ seminar, recently organized by the PAD, marks the beginning of another round of mass action in its stubborn fight to resist the increasing power of the current government.
The PPP-led government is now pushing ahead with its agenda to rewrite the entire 2007 Constitution, in the hope that it will assist former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra - and his wife Potjaman - to counter lawsuits that have been filed against them with allegations of corruption.
Thaksin is currently busy with his merit-making activities, with a PR campaign that includes a personal pilgrimage to a large number of Buddhist temples in Northern Thailand. He has also established the House No. 111 Foundation, in addition to the ‘good deeds’ he continues to perform for his long-established Thai Com Foundation. The House No. 111 Foundation is likely to become a new home for some banned politicians of the disbanded Thai Rak Thai (TRT) Party - including Sudarat Keyurapan, Pongthep Thepkanjana and Pongsak Raktapongpaisarn.
Meanwhile, there are other pro-Thaksin groups beginning to stir. Among the most prominent of these groups is the movement that was formerly known as the Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship (DAAD). Another significant group contains a number of former TRT Party members under the leadership of Thaksin’s close aide Newin Chidchob. Both groups are already well-prepared to demonstrate their support for the deposed PM, if any major political showdown comes to pass. The pro-Thaksin group led by Pracha Sobdee seems unlikely to play such a strong role as the DAAD and the ‘Newin’ groups.
As for the possibility of another coup, I wish to comment that the real power is still very much in the hands of the Royal Thai Army (RTA) - which will play the final card in any major dispute that arises between the two current political factions. A confidential source has recently provided information that suggests that another coup might possibly occur - but that the decision to run such a coup would depend on the sentiments of two powerful cliques in the Royal Thai Police and the RTA. One of these cliques supports former PM Thaksin, and is in favor of destroying the 2007 Constitution. The other clique has fallen into disfavor as a result of a widespread public sentiment that the September 19 Coup (of 2006) failed in its objectives. The latter group might possibly wish to stage another coup along the same lines as the abortive 1951 Manhattan Coup (staged by some elements of the Royal Thai Navy), the (aforementioned) September 19 Coup, or the Kabot Senathikarn Rebellion (as attempted by certain elements in the RTA’s General Staff).
Some political pundits are warning the public to keep a very close eye on the current political situation. They see possible connections between recent attempts to disgrace the Privy Council President (and Statesman) Gen. Prem Tinasulanonda and last week’s initiation of a ‘lèse majesté’ case against a young man alleged to have refused to stand to attention - as a sign of respect to HM the King - during the playing of the Royal Anthem at a movie theater. Nobody would seriously doubt Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s loyalty to the Thai monarchy. Indeed, it is said that PM Samak has already issued orders that this case should be handled discreetly. I would say, however, that a Democrat Party-led government would have undoubtedly handled this case in a much more sensible manner.

Crazy World - Khao Sod, April 27, 2008

Top, left to right:
Keep being crazy
Left to right: Chalerm, Sondhi, ? (perhaps Somkiat or Suriyasai from the PAD)
Chalerm says: Opposing Thaksin
Sondhi says: Beating off Thaksin regime
Not sure, perhaps Somkiat or Suriyasai from the PAD: Marching on the street

Crazy about pubic hair
Left to right: Democrats Apisit, Tepthai, and Chuan
Tepthai says: Have you ever seen them? [This is in reference to the pubic hair being mailed to Privy Councilor Prem to insult him.]

Bottom, left to right:
Crazy about amendments
Left to right: ?, PM Samak, Banharn
First figure: Constitution must be revised
Samak: Parliament must be dissolved
Banharn: They don’t know if they never face the situation themselves.

Against amendment moves
Left to right: ?, ?, Prasong
First figure: It must not be revised
Second figure: For the sake of themselves
Prasong: Must not be amended

Crazy about honor
Duang says: That’s my father [Duang, dishonorably discharged from the military, was recently reinstated. His father is Interior Minister Chalerm.]

Famous astrologer - former policeman - predicts career fate of National Police Chief - translated and summarized from Phujatkan; Author: Crime News Reporters’ Pool, April 28, 2008
Former policeman and well-known astrologer - Pol. Col. Atthawirot Sritula has recently predicted the career fate of the incumbent National Police Chief Gen. Patcharawat Wongsuwan. He has also examined the possible fate of Pol. Gen. Priewpan Damapong (Khunying Potjaman Shinawatra’s brother), in his current bid to become the National Police Chief.
Col. Atthawirot has been keeping a close watch on National Police Chief incumbents in recent years, and he has noted that it is rare for those appointed to the post to serve out a full term. Atthawirot’s astrological prognostications, on the careers of recent police chiefs, have now found their way into the media. Atthawirot says Gen. Patcharawat will face some hardships in carrying out his post’s responsibilities. He also believes that Gen. Patcharawat will need to display great patience, if he is to complete his full term.
Gen. Priewpan Damapong (the brother-in-law of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra) has recently returned to work in the National Police Bureau. Atthawirot has examined the astrological omens for Gen. Priewpan being chosen as National Police Chief. The famous astrologer told the media that he believes that Priewpan’s career future will be entirely dependent on the fortunes of former PM Thaksin and the current People Power Party-led government, as the ‘two’ continue to engage in a combined power struggle with their many detractors.
General Patcharawat was appointed as the National Police Chief after the transfer of the former incumbent - Gen. Seripisut Temiyavet - to an inactive post. This transfer came after many lawsuits were filed against Seripisut, with allegations of corruption and indiscipline. 

A dream? - translated and summarized from Krungtep Turakit; Reporter No. 10, April 28, 2008
It appears that the People Power Party (PPP) is now almost certain to succeed in its aggressive campaign to amend the 2007 Constitution. The problem for PPP will now be how exactly they intend to make this amendment happen. It is widely-believed that the PPP will press ahead with its proposed plans to reinstate the entire 1997 Constitution - with total disregard for any public objections. If this plan - as secretly conceived by the ‘Boss’ himself - is successful, the merger of three political parties seems inevitable. The ‘merging’ parties would be the PPP, the Chart Thai Party and the Neutral Democratic Party [Pak Matchima Thippathai]. Their merger would mean that around 300 MPs would come under the control of a single party in the House of Representatives. But before the constitutional amendments and the party merger can take place, it may actually be necessary to dissolve parliament - in the hope that a new election will soften the electorate’s resistance to such drastic actions.  
Rumors currently have it that either Pol. Gen. Chidchai Wannasathit or Dr. Prommin Lertsuridet could soon be selected as the new leader of the PPP - with the further possibility of Newin Chidchob becoming the party’s Secretary-General, and Pongthep Thepkanchana being appointed as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Through such moves - the rumor mill says - the way will be cleared for ‘Thaksin Fever’ to once again grip the nation.
It seems, however, that former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is becoming rather sick of the antics of his ‘nominee’ Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej - whose popularity and influence is seemingly on the wane. This increasing animosity between Thaksin and Samak will surely have some impact on the former PM’s long-held dream of a return to power.

Still yet more cannon polishing - Manager, April 25, 2008
It reads: I was lucky that Ai Pued only had a small gun. [Chalerm's son Duang polishes a cannon in front of the Defense Ministry. In 2001, Sergeant Suwichai Rodwimut was shot dead in a pub. Once Duang Yoobamrung turned himself in, his father, Chalerm, claimed a person named Ai Pued actually shot and killed the policeman. Here, the ghost of the policeman thinks it is fortunate he was not shot with the big cannon.]

Job for Duang - Kajor Ngorngae by Mor, Krungtepturakit, April 24, 2008
Left: Chalerm says: Don't worry, if my son, Duang, is back in the military, I will tell him to polish the big guns in front of the Defense Ministry.
Middle: The reporter says: Do you think that job is suitable for your son? It is like beneath his knowledge and capabilities.
Chalerm says: So what is the suitable job for him?
Right: The reporter says: Quelling the southern unrest.
[Powerful politician Chalerm's son Duang was reinstated into the military recently. He was stripped of his position after refusing to turn himself over the the police over alleged involvement in the shooting death of a police officer in a nightclub. The cartoon reflects many of the urban elites' view of the spoiled Chalerm boys by suggesting they be sent to the dangerous South. An earlier cartoon about the Chalerm boys is here.]

NBT news reports on impending reform of Nepal’s monarchy - translated and summarized from Phujatkan, column: Rieng Na Ha Kradan, author: Kamnoon Sittisaman, April 21, 2008
The NBT television channel [Channel 11] has recently broadcast news reports about proposed reforms to the Nepalese monarchy. The reports suggest that the recent electoral success of the Nepalese Maoist Party which leads to the abolition of the country’s monarchy. NBT’s presentation of the story strongly highlights the issue of a monarchy yielding to Maoism.  I wish to criticize the PM Office Minister Jakkrapob Penkair, who seems intent on presenting some underlying significance that can link the anti-monarchy Nepalese stories to the conflict between the pro-Thaksin group (who propose to reform the Constitution) and the anti-Thaksin supporters of the Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda. 

Thailand - by Arun, Krungtepturakit, April 22, 2008
The left tire reads: Politics
The right tire reads: Economy

PM Samak on the possible dissolution of Parliament - translated and summarized from Komchadluek, April 22, 2008
Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej stated during last Sunday’s broadcast of the weekly ‘Samak’s Style of Talk’ television program, that he might consider dissolving parliament after completing his proposed revisions to the 2007 Constitution. The implications of this statement need to be closely examined. His government’s proposed revision of the current constitution has drawn strong criticism from those members of the public who perceive that such a revision might mainly benefit his own People Power Party (PPP) and the ‘old power’ group of Thaksin Shinawatra. The charter revision is likely to include a proposal to shorten the allocated life span of each new Electoral Commission (EC) and National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC). These two organizations have both recently taken measures that have acted as a brake on the power of the current government. The EC launched an inquiry into alleged vote buying by the PPP after the December 23 General Election that could eventually lead to the its dissolution. Meanwhile, the NCCC has launched an inquiry into alleged corruption by ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra.
I am of the firm belief that the PM needs to thoroughly reconsider any attempt by his government to revise the current constitution. Any perception that the revision is mainly of benefit to the PPP could lead to serious political conflict. Such conflict would jeopardize the peace of this nation, and result in a loss of public confidence in the Samak Government. And this might, in turn, cause another coup d’etat to occur.

Thaksin’s secret plan to win back the reins of power from Samak - Thaksin hopes to ‘uproot the grass before it grows’ under his feet - translated and summarized from Phujatkan, April 19, 2008
Former Prime Minister - Thaksin Shinawatra - made a public appearance at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on April 9, to deliver a special lecture at a seminar organized by the Thai Com Foundation. The lecture was well-received by some elements of the business community. Among those who counted themselves impressed by Thaksin’s lecture were former leaders of his disbanded Thai Ruk Thai (TRT) party, and MPs of the current People Power Party (PPP).
Looking back on PM Samak’s lecture on government policies to revive the Thai economy, it was very noticeable that many of those in attendance were not really that interested in what the PM had to say on economic matters.
People seem to be openly pondering whether the ‘real’ prime minister is Thaksin Shinawatra or Samak Sundaravej.     
Samak 1 Government ministers have had to await the decision of former PM Thaksin several times in recent weeks, over the shaping of their administration’s policies. The issue of the ‘30% reserve’ being a particular case-in-point [the 30% reserve rule for capital inflows] - a matter that could easily have been decided by the Finance Minister, Dr. Surawong Suebwonglee, alone.
It is widely-believed that Thaksin will soon begin a major maneuver to regain his former popularity and return as prime minister.

Farmers under siege - Arun, Krungtepturakit, April 3, 2008
On the bag it reads: Rice waiting for 30,000 baht per ton. One the birds it reads: No barns, high prices, debt, Bank of Agriculture and cooperatives, thieves steal rice

Cat lover? - Arun, Krungtepturakit, April 4, 2008
Loves the cat or does not want the cat to get the fish - The tag on the cage reads "Commander-in-Chief" meaning C-in-C Anupong.
[This cartoon points out the close relationship Samak is creating with the C-in-C--ostensibly to forestall a military coup. Samak, a well-known cat lover, keeps the C-in-C close to him either because he likes cat or he "does not want the cat to get the fish." This is an idiomatic expression that means "refuse to give away something that one does not have the right to have" perhaps meaning Samak does not deserve the premiership as a proxy of Thaksin and he does not want to let this slip away to the cat through a coup.]

"Confusing life" - Thai Rath, April 6, 2008

Top, left to right: God gives me too many balls. They are no use! [A reference to recent news about underage castrations.]

Why do they receive death penalty eating stir fried cobra's eggs with chilies? [Recently several members of a family died after eating a cobra. Many considered this retribution for killing a sacred animal.]

It is not known whether books our son is reading are licensed or pirated ones. [Recent news stories have uncovered that many Thai-language textbooks are pirated copies. It is quite acceptable to copy non-Thai textbooks, but not local ones.]

Bottom, left to right:
Rice in the farm is all reserved. Why does the government tell us to stockpile it? [Investors loan farmers money to buy fertilizer and other farm implements. The farmers pay back the investors (or "capitalists" as Thais call them) with rice. This keeps the rural farmers in a somewhat indentured state. Since the rice crop is already spoken for to repay the investors, the farmers are not able to comply with government admonitions to stockpile their crop or do anything else with it.]

Party members do not respect me. Why have I been chosen to be the party leader? [Referring to Samak's sometimes contentious relationship with the rest of the People Power Party.]

Why do they become candidates for Member of the Parliament position if they want to be a gangster? [MPs are often rambunctious provincial tough men or mafia types. Probably also a reference to the Karun kicking incident in parliament that the Thai press repeatedly described as "barbaric."]

Samak’s tit-for-tat strategy - translated and summarized from Komchadluek, April 10, 2008
The ‘Samak’s Style of Talk’ television program - which is aired on Sundays by the Department of Public Relations - is not only a piece of pro-government propaganda, but also a channel through which Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej can aggressively attack those journalists or people who have recently annoyed him.
Some may like the PM’s aggressive and tough style of televised delivery, but there is a big question as to whether such a confrontational approach really benefits us - the ordinary citizens of Thailand.
A recent opinion poll by Bangkok University interviewed 1,036 respondents who said they had heard of or watched the PM’s first broadcast of the weekly program. Many respondents expressed a strong liking for the PM’s uncompromising attitude during the program - but many also expressed a strong disapproval of his sarcasm, roughness of manner and aggressive language.
People Power Party Spokesman Kuthep Saikrachang has recently commented that he thought that PM Samak tended to talk nonsense in public - but also that he was largely able to cover up the nonsense of his words by delivering them in a highly-aggressive manner.
Samak Sundaravej might well be the only elected PM in Thai history with no real political base. He really must begin to indicate his core political values to those he governs. He must also make it plain that he is not under the thumb of another more powerful politician. He will also have to act decisively and quickly against his enemies, as there is really some doubt as to whether he will remain PM for very long.

Keeping coup rumors alive - The Nation Weekend, April, 2008

C-in-C Anupong is on the cover of the Nation Weekend magazine. The cover reads "‘Lab luang loe will discuss the pla ra revolution."
["Lab, luang and loe" means "secret, lies and filthy issues." This is a reference to the best-selling book Lab Luang Trang (Secrets, Lies, and Hidden) Behind the coup of 2006 by Wassana Nahnuam.
"Pla Ra" means "pickled fish" indicating something that smells bad. This is to examine the swirling rumors of coups and the C-in-C's allegiance to the government.]

Human rights infringed - terrible events on our southern borders - translated and summarized from Matichon, April 14, 2008
The issue of human rights is an important one. And it is especially important when we consider the ongoing violence in our southern border provinces. It should be of serious concern to us all that the policemen and army personnel operating in the restive region have so often been accused of infringing human rights.
Two cases that were hugely antagonistic, in the ongoing conflict between the region’s locals and the state security forces, were the mysterious death - in 1954 - of the leading human rights activist Haji Sulong Tohmeena and the more recent disappearance of the famous Muslim lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit. A 2007 report by the Human Rights Watch organization said that there had been numerous ‘disappearances’ in the region, with no apparent reason for the majority of them.
Such reports impact very directly on the public image of our government officials - some of whom are under suspicion of involvement in the heinous crimes that undoubtedly lie behind these disappearances. Such events impact very negatively on Thailand’s image abroad, as our country has already signed many treaties with international organizations to protect human rights.
I believe that the government urgently needs to create a better awareness, among government officials, of the negative impacts that can accrue from the cruel treatment of suspects. As the Sook Kaew Kaewdaeng Foundation says, the region’s unrest can only be resolved if both its residents and its state officials have a shared vision of the need to protect human rights. The foundation hope that their project to promote a better respect for human rights will eventually lead to long-term peace in the restive region.  

Military not progressive - politics, as always, regressive - translated and summarized from Deep South Watch; Author: Muhamad-ayup Patan, April 16, 2008
The situation in the South still remains largely unchanged. Violent attacks still occur on a daily basis. The locals of the region still largely live in fear, while Thais in the rest of the country are largely indifferent to the fate of the region’s people.
By continually perpetrating violent attacks, the insurgent movement hopes to create a fear in the hearts of local people - with which they can be more easily coerced.
No matter how hard the government tries to solve this problem, it is still highly unlikely that they can ever bring an end to this unrest.
In the wake of the recent major spate of arrests of suspected insurgents, it might be claimed that the government - and especially its military - has destroyed the political structure of the insurgent movement. But the fact of the matter is that the military has yet to destroy the insurgents’ armed forces - so the unrest is thus bound to continue.
Military operations always increase the likelihood of human rights violations occurring. Thus, the unbelievable escalation of the unrest in the South is bound to involve widespread disregard for human rights.
Some recent events have had an extremely negative impact on the public image of the current government, as they have clearly demonstrated that it has no policies to resolve the region’s problems.
But if we examine all of the above from a converse viewpoint, the current situation could actually be construed as to the benefit of this government - affording it a brand-new opportunity to instigate a major initiative to resolve the region’s problems once-and-for-all.

Festival of unregretted deaths - translated and summarized from Komchadluek, April 16, 2008
The Thai New Year Festival (AKA Songkran) is a time of year when the high death toll on our roads is always highlighted in the media on a daily basis. We really need to be far more concerned about this carnage. The high number of car accidents - during each Thai New Year celebration - cause a massive loss of life, do a great deal of damage to property and incur huge medical costs for the injured. These all place a heavy burden on both our economy and our society.
I believe that the Songkran road-safety campaign should be conducted in a more serious and somber manner. I also believe that our traffic laws need to be far more punitive and far more strictly enforced than they are at present. The annual campaign also needs to focus on the heavy social consequences of irresponsible driving, by promoting the idea that it is socially unacceptable to flaunt the traffic laws.  

Not facing famine! - translated and summarized from Thai Rath, April 17, 2008
Many countries - worldwide - have been facing the prospect of future famine, since the prices of food staples - and rice in particular - began to rise so rapidly a few months back. At the same time as these dramatic price increases, most people’s incomes have remained largely unchanged. The various causes of this global food crisis include higher fuel prices, global warming, lower agricultural production, a higher demand for food staples and the massive hoarding of some agricultural commodities. Rice prices have reached their highest levels in 20 years - while rice output is at its lowest level over the same period.
Past Thai governments have tried hard to increase rice prices to sensible levels - but now the current government has to face the consequences of extremely high prices for the commodity. It is important that the government now deals fairly and even-handedly with this country’s farmers, traders and exporters of rice. We Thais are unlikely to face the problem of famine, as we have always had enough rice for our own consumption and for export. The problem, for us all now, is how to manage the profits of our country’s agricultural production in a fair and efficient manner - for the benefit of all our citizens.

Disgraceful MP - translated and summarized from Matichon, April 5, 2008
Concerning the verbal spat and physical confrontation - in Parliament on April 2 - that occurred between the People Power Party MP for Bangkok’s Don Muang constituency, Karun Hosakun, and the Democrat Party’s party-list MP Somkiat Pongpaiboon. A special parliamentary committee has been set up to investigate the case. I believe this issue reflects negatively on the image of Parliament. If Parliament is to continue to be a respected and prestigious institution, it is essential that the public perceives its MPs as upright and ethical. I would add that if this case is not investigated in a transparent manner, the image of Parliament will be further eroded.

Signs of impending chaos - translated and summarized from Krungtep Turakit, April 7, 2008
I wish to examine the violent and impolite confrontation that occurred in Parliament between an MP of the People Power Party, Karun Hosakun, and the Democrat Party MP Somkiat Pongpaiboon - that Somkiat has accused Karun of starting.
It is not yet known whether Karun or Somkiat is to believed in this case. This incident highlights, however, the abnormal political conflict that continues to be waged between the ‘old power’ of Thaksin supporters and those who hate him.
Shortly before the confrontation occurred, Thaksin supporters had gathered in front of Thammasat University. The group shouted out impolite slogans in protest against a seminar that was being held by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) inside the university at the time. They also vented their aggressive feelings against PAD by throwing rocks into the university compound. Karun later expressed his dissatisfaction and exasperation to Somkiat (a PAD leader) over his anti-Thaksin sentiments, when they subsequently met in the main hall of the university. Somkiat has long been a staunch critic of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra.
Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has recently decided to revise Article 237 of the Constitution, which concerns the disbanding of political parties. He also wishes to revise Article 309, which affords a degree of immunity to those who have perpetrated a coup d’etat against the Government. Samak has recently aired some rather aggressive criticisms against those who are opposed to these revisions.
All groups in Thai society should realize the dangers that are inherent in such conflicts, and begin to realize that it is necessary for us all to use our mental capacities to override our own naturally selfish political tendencies.
Samak should begin to demonstrate some maturity over this issue, by allowing the public to fully participate in the revision of the Constitution.

Diarrhea caused by the unseen hand? - Krungtepturakit, April 4, 2008
The cat says: Master, don't let anyone know that you are admitted to the hospital because of diarrhea. This is not good. Just tell what happened to you because of the unseen hand.
The sign on the end of the bed reads: No food. On the right it reads: Assassination plan
[Samak is a well-known cat lover. Samak has repeatedly blamed bad press about himself and the government as being caused by an "unseen hand."]

Karun's kick - Poojadkuan, April 5, 2008
It reads: Poojadkuan is the only media that can get the picture of kick clearly.

Poojadkuan, April 5, 2008 - It reads: The effect of global warming [meaning hot weather made Karun dizzy and he started kicking people] - Chai Chidchop with his arm around Karun says: Take it easy, young boy. Are you dizzy and it makes you kick at people. That man was not a bicycle.

The country is at risk! - translated and summarized from Komchadluek, April 2, 2008
Politicians - who were elected as representatives of the public - should put their collective intelligence to work to solve the existing problems of the Kingdom, and to prevent any new problems that might arise. They should also work more closely to provide the people - they represent - with greater security for their livelihoods, personnel assets and well-being.
Some politicians currently seem intent on taking shameless advantage of the government’s assets, however. Indeed, they seem to be mainly engaged in doing things for their own sake.
Such behavior is hardly new, and is actually known to be an enduring problem in Thai politics. If this country continues to be ruled by immoral and selfish politicians, it will be increasingly at risk of failure. Such politicians will almost certainly persist in favoring their associates, regardless of the eventual cost to the nation.
The Thai public is now facing many problems. These problems include expensive fuel costs, a high cost-of-living, numerous environmental problems and a soaring crime rate.
Additionally, several ministerial post-holders - within the current administration - are widely considered to be ill-qualified for their positions. These individuals not only act in a politically aggressive manner, but also seem intent on doing things that will not benefit the majority of the population.
If ministerial post-holders continue to show no great eagerness to solve the country’s problem, our country’s citizens will be left with no one to turn to. The situation will almost certainly worsen if these individuals are allowed to continue taking advantage of their positions.
Prime Minister Samak should consider reshuffling the members of his Cabinet. Inefficient ministerial post-holders should be sacked before they damage the country any further.

The Prime Minister’s problems - translated and summarized from Thai Rath, April 3, 2008
During the ‘Samak Talk’ television program that was aired on March 30, Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej displayed a highly aggressive attitude towards the press. Among the things that the PM claimed, during the program, was that media reporters had deliberately prodded him to talk about the possibility of a coup d’etat against his government - to the point where the issue had become the ‘talk of the town’.
The Prime Minister has been facing many problems since he placed himself once again in the public domain. He has been greatly criticized, and has had many complaints made against him. Furthermore, he has lost a great deal of his personal freedom and privacy - and cannot go out alone without bodyguards to guarantee his security.
There is one issue on which the PM has lately taken to speaking somewhat ambiguously. He claims that another country is paying attention to his every action, and is trying to influence him into not expressing any sympathy for a third country - that he also refuses to name. 
Although the PM is not inclined to name these two countries, it is rather obvious to us that the second country is a ‘superpower’ and the third country is Myanmar.

Nation Weekend - April 5, 2008

Right: Hot hundred million baht involved conflict

[On the cover is Sondhi (left) and Chalerm (right). This is a reference to a controversy over Chalerm's asset declaration and reports he and his son's have received financial support from Sondhi.]

Left: Spicy godfather

[On the cover is Newin Chidchob, political kingpin from the northeast. Spicy in this case means "very great" implying he is a real power in the background of the PPP. It could also be a play on words with a soap opera with "spicy" in its title on Channel 3.]

More: Unlocking the Thai world: Thai-language newspaper headlines

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