Tea Banh wants only good news
Preah Vihear meet brings warning from Cambodian defence minister to press to write only positive articles / Democrats took Bangkok governor race with the help of celebrities and one clear campaign strategy / Transport minister inspects city road snarls daily to get a handle on each problem
Tensions along the Thai-Cambodian border cooled down a bit during a lunch meeting on Feb 26 between Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat and his Cambodian counterpart Tea Banh at the Preah Vihear temple.
Sukumpol: News in English widely read
ACM Sukumpol walked about 1km up the mountain and climbed another 100 stairs to reach the temple and had lunch there.
During the lunch meeting, Gen Tea Banh talked with a Bangkok Post reporter who was among the Thai delegation to the temple and he stressed the importance of the role the print media plays in relation to Thai-Cambodian ties.
He said whether relations between Thailand and Cambodia will improve or not depends on media coverage.
''If the Bangkok Post writes good stories, Thailand and Cambodia will be good friends. If it presents bad stories, this will make us quarrel. This is very important,'' Gen Tea Banh told ACM Sukumpol.
He stressed that the International Court of Justice keeps an eye on relations between the two neighbours so the newspapers must present favourable news stories.
ACM Sukumpol agreed with his Cambodian counterpart's comments. He said English-language newspapers present news which is read widely around the world.
News put on a website is accessible even more quickly, Gen Tea Banh added.
The amicable atmosphere during the lunch meeting between the two defence ministers was later marred by an incident in which three Thai rangers were injured when they stepped on landmines during their border patrol along the common border around Ta Kwai temple in Surin's Phanom Dong Rak district on March 3. One ranger's right leg was blown off.
The army was upset about the incident which ruined the amicable atmosphere between the two countries.
ACM Sukumpol tried to maintain cordial ties by saying the mines may have been planted by smugglers of phayung rosewood. But the mines definitely did not belong to the Thai side, he said.
The landmines were found to be Vietnamese-made TMN1 mines, which are commonly used by the Cambodian military, a source said.
Thailand will notify Cambodia that it has violated the Ottowa mine ban treaty, which both countries have signed. The treaty bans signatory states from using and stockpiling landmines.
Opposition plays it right in Bangkok
Sukhumbhand: No honeymoon period
The parade of well-known figures coming out to campaign for strategic votes played a significant part in MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra's historic win in the March 3 Bangkok governor election with 1.2 million votes, the highest ever recorded in a Bangkok governor election.
Those campaigners, including celebrities, media professionals, local leaders, activists and others like retired police general Vasit Dejkunjorn, urged Bangkok voters to vote strategically - by not casting their ballots for independent candidates - even if they didn't feel too fond of MR Sukhumbhand.
Campaign messages were sent out to Bangkokians during the election that votes for independent candidates would end up being a waste.
City dwellers were encouraged to vote for the candidates fielded by the two major political parties. If they were unhappy with the government, the voters should vote against the Pheu Thai candidate. Those wanting to see a balance of power in politics should vote for the candidate representing the opposition Democrat Party.
There were also rhetorical and satirical messages posted online.
''Bangkokians say they don't want to vote for aristocrat Sukhumbhand as he is fat and not smart. Some say he speaks unclearly and cannot get his message across. I really want to tell those voters that 'you are urged to cast your ballots to choose a Bangkok governor, not a husband who must be handsome or smart like you want','' one message read.
''Whoever wants a police officer to be the next Bangkok governor or is fond of the police, go vote for Pongsapat [Pongcharoen, the Pheu Thai candidate],'' said another message.
The message also decried rogue police officers who extort money from people throughout their lives.
''If you want to see monopolistic acts of corruption or 'seamless' corruption, go and vote for the government candidate. In doing so, you will experience how to live under a situation where you will become voiceless,'' yet another message read.
The Democrats' decision to field MR Sukhumbhand in the Bangkok governor race had upset many well-known figures and political enthusiasts.
Though many Democrat supporters were not happy with the party's choice, they considered it vital to keep the capital from coming under the control of Pheu Thai, for the sake of accountability.
Campaigns were later intensively stepped up through social media and websites and other media channels to urge city voters to vote for the Democrat candidate.
The Democrats were blessed as the majority of Bangkok voters still had faith in the party. However, it appears there will be no honeymoon period for MR Sukhumbhand, given that it is his second term in office and he should be all too familiar with the affairs of running the capital.
Chadchat gets toheart of the jams
Chadchat: In the thick of things
For the past five months Transport Minister Chadchat Sittipunt has set out on a daily routine which does not get media coverage: inspecting the city's horrendous traffic jams.
The transport minister reportedly does not want any publicity when making his traffic inspections. He wants to see for himself just how dreadful the traffic situation in the capital really is. He has the belief that a caravan of journalists would only make the officials concerned nervous and try to cover up the mess.
Every afternoon senior transport officials call up the minister's aides to find out where the boss will head to after work so they can catch up with him there.
The Land Transport Department, the Highway Department, the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority, the Expressway and Rapid Transit Authority and even police are expected to be there to weigh in on the traffic problems.
Like any city resident, getting through the evening rush hour can take forever for these officials. So most of them resort to motorcycle taxi services in order to meet the minister in time.
Adsathai Rattanadilok na Phuket, deputy chief of the Land Transport Department, is among the regular motorcycle taxi passengers.
Using a private car is not an option as some parts are known to be in an almost constant state of congestion like Rama IV Road, Ratchaprasong Road or Lat Phrao Road. And Mr Chadchat sometimes makes several stops in one day.
According to Mr Adsathai, being there can really help agencies concerned see the big picture and tackle the problems on the spot.
Take traffic jams on Ratchaprasong Road, in front of CentralWorld shopping complex, for example.
Ratchaprasong is a wide road but two of its traffic lanes are useless. One lane is occupied by street vendors who push out from the pavement. The other is taken over by public transport vehicles - mostly taxis and passenger vans waiting for passengers.
A common sight is bus passengers scattering across the lanes so that they can hop on public buses in the middle of the road.
Mr Adsathai coordinates with the thetsakij, the city inspectors, in regulating street vendors. He himself has instructed authorities concerned to strictly enforce the traffic laws.
According to Mr Adsathai's estimate, enforcing discipline and taking action against those flouting traffic rules can help increase the flow of traffic and alleviate the congestion by 30%.