2Bangkok.com picks the top stories of 2005

(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)
Left: Newspapers of February 7, 2005 - Top left: Bangkok Post - Single party rule / Top middle: The Nation - One-party rule looms / Top right: Matichon - Wannor-Phokin vie to be the House of Representative chairperson - Maew (Thaksin) sets up a single party (government) / Bottom left: Khaosod - Thaksin overwhelming victory at almost 400! Democrats are shocked - lower than 100 / Bottom middle: Komchadluek - Counting the vote is in turmoil - Electricity went out - Protest - Satun has to re-vote / Bottom right: Daily News - Thai Rak Thai sweep all nearly almost 400 - pitch a flag (making inroads) to acquire the Bangkok area
2Bangkok.com picks the top stories of 2005 - December 29, 2005

While some stories appear as screaming headlines and points of controversy for a week and then are forgotten, others have lasting impact and lead to other controversies. This year's top stories largely chart the misery of the TRT party in the first year after its historic election win.

1. The year started with Thaksin's triumph at the polls (Thai Elections). This air of invincibility probably contributed to a series of aggressive stances by the PM challenging critics' patriotism which led to...

2. A series of aggressive lawsuits against government critics (T is for trouble in the age of libel, The Nation, July 29, 2005, Libel suits being used to intimidate, The Nation, August 17, 2005) which seemed to be an attempt to create a Singapore-style of order in the media (Aura of fear pervades Thai media, IHT, October 5, 2005).

Right: Komchadluek's March 12 news of the cabinet appointments: 'All Thaksin's people seize the main ministries - Noi (Sudarat) is Minister of Agriculture"

(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

3. The convoluted plan to remove Jaruvan as auditor-general continued to simmer (A tale of two newspapers: Jaruvan relieved, June 28, 2005) until the replacement nominee had to be clumsily withdrawn (Visut's nomination withdrawn, The Nation, September 23, 2005) further cheering government critics and piercing the invulnerability of TRT.

4. In April, the CTX scanner scandal broke (No illegal airport deal, Suriya says, The Nation, April 26,2005) which eventually led to...

5. A cabinet reshuffle with Suriya out as Transport Minister (Reactions to the cabinet in the press - August 4, 2005, Thai press reaction to the new cabinet from Thairath, Khaosod, Matichon and Manager: 'haew and bourbok selling out' - August 6, 2005).

6. Despite some earlier bad luck for the government, a first major event that brought out protesters and condemnation beyond the political parties was the attempt to takeover the Bangkok Post and Matichon. This action was widely believed to be on behalf of the Prime Minister as a way to control major newspapers.

7. In September, with Phongsak Raktaphongsephaisarn (Minister Pheng) as new Transport Minister, news started to dribble out that many of the mass transit routes promised during the election campaign were being cancelled or modified. This story was much bigger in the Thai-language media and internet with furious denunciations of TRT. Eventually the transport minister was forced to reinstate the lines with cabinet approval although the timelines remain vague. Mass transit woes continued with...

(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

8. The long-running stalemate on Skytrain expansion came to a head in October and resulted in a public backlash against the politicizing of the Skytrain by TRT. This event also allowed Bangkok Governor Apirak to be pushed forward as the public face of the Democrat Party after being sidelined in most of his initiatives by the central government.

Left: End of the Skytrain line at Taksin Bridge over the Chao Phraya River

9. Late in the year, Manager newspaper founder Sondhi Limthongkul mounted a serious challenge to the ruling party. In September, Sondhi's Thailand Weekly was removed from television for its anti-government rhetoric (Notes on canceling Muang Thai Rai Sapdah - September 17, 2005). Then for many weeks, Sondhi performed his show live at various venues as a kind of protest.

Sondhi finally got real traction with the press and the public by playing up Thaksin's appearance at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (including a widely circulated photo of Thaksin in the temple). This act was said to somehow usurp the King's role. Sondhi later hit on other allegations popular with the public such as misuse of aircraft by the PM's family.

Eventually, his Lumpini Park speeches drew thousands and the political scene heated up with rumors of coups, protests and threats (High tension in Thailand). However, Sondhi seemed to peak in mid-December as Thaksin's lawsuits against Sondhi were withdrawn and the press turned on Sondhi to examine the motives behind the man who was once Thaksin's outspoken advocate.

Right: Overflow crowds watch the Thailand Weekly show on giant screens at Lumpini Park on November 25

(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

10. Stories questioning the state of the economy were quite prominent in the Thai-language world. Backtracking on mass transit projects, studies on public indebtedness, and peculiar bond issues fueled persistent rumors that the government is broke and that Thailand is in store for another 1997 economic slump. All this has led to...

11. The disgruntlement of TRT factions which revealed TRT to be a kind of coalition government within one party held together by promises of money, good times, and constitutional strictures that make it difficult for politicians to jump parties.

(Photo: Mr. John for 2Bangkok.com)

Above: November 8, 2005 - Bomb hidden in the car of a government official in Yala.

12. Simmering in the background are the continuing problems in the deep south and

13. Flooding... Do not underestimate floods as an issue that can disgruntle the Thai electorate.

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