Pigs at the trough
Re: "Hollow promises", (PostBag, March 15). I share Burin Kantabutra's frustration over the lack of progress in dealing with entrenched graft and corruption in Thailand.
What a disappointment it is for all reform-minded Thais that more headway is not being made in weeding out the ubiquitous corruption in the country. If more progress cannot be made now in eradicating graft and corruption -- with the absolute power of Section 44 in effect -- what possible hope is there for the time when the country returns to a governance structure where power is shared among squabbling politicians and civilian officials, with manifold vested interests, hungry to feed at the trough?
Sadly, Prayut has failed
Thailand has fallen from 32nd to 46th in the world on the happiness index (BP, March 16). Given that the rationale of this last coup was to bring happiness to the people, it appears that Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has failed dismally.
As far as I can tell, the only people happy with Gen Prayut's rule are the rich, who continue to widen the chasm between themselves and poor, unhindered, and the military officers who have received all the toys they ever wanted.
Meanwhile, the poor remain as poor as ever, the healthcare system remains ridiculously underfunded, there seems to be corruption almost everywhere, and we are all told to keep our mouths shut about anything about this government that we don't like.
Many years ago, when radio was the No.1 form of entertainment, and TV had only two channels, there was a radio programme where five contestants were called on to the stage. They were given 30 seconds to finish an incomplete sentence or phrase. The audience judged the best response through thunderous applause. I wonder how a Thai audience would complete the now famous police phrase for construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta. "He'd better appear … or else". They'd probably choke on stage laughing themselves into oblivion before collapsing breathlessly.
David James Wong
Rich always 'innocent'
A notice on Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya disappears from the Interpol website. "It was unclear when the notice -- a worldwide request to find and arrest an individual pending an extradition -- went missing from the website and for what reasons.
But there was immediate speculation that powerful interests intervened on Mr Vorayuth's behalf.
Now we read that Premchai Karnasuta denies killing the leopard. Deputy police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul added: "In laws, there aren't the rich or the poor. There are only the innocent and the guilty. There are 60 million Thais. Less than a million are on social media. Less than a million think this way."
I guess the black leopard killed itself -- animal suicide. I guess the dog that died after having been stuffed into a United Airlines flight overhead bin jumped in there voluntarily too.
Yes, there are only the innocent and the guilty. But then, the rich are always found innocent, the poor are always found guilty. That is the truth of the matter, plain and simple.
Poor Poor Thailand
Deserving what we get
Amid all this talk about an "outsider" prime minister, everybody seems to ignore some simple truths. The first is that we will only get an outsider PM if the elected members of the House of Representatives fail to reach a majority agreement on a PM from among their own numbers. The Senate and the outsider PM provisions only become relevant after that failure has occurred.
If political parties do not want an outsider PM then they must field candidates for PM who are seen as fit to do the job on the grounds of competence, honesty, trustworthiness, etc, and have the potential to gain both the support of the electorate and the majority of the House.
At some point during the process, political parties and their House members will have to compromise and coalesce around a PM candidate for the good of the country, not just themselves. However, voters alone determine the members of the House.
The second truth, rarely spoken or emphasised, is that whether we get an outsider PM is in the hands of the electorate. They are the ones who vote for the various parties and for the members of the House whose votes between the various candidates for PM will decide whether our next PM comes from a member of the House or through the outsider PM provisions.
If the majority of the electorate does not want an outsider PM then they must vote for parties whose candidates for PM they consider best to do the job. You have to look beyond policies to people. Equally important is to vote for constituency members who are prepared to move beyond being traditional rubber-stamping party hacks by backing compromise candidates, even if from other parties.
The old truth, that we get the politicians we deserve, remains the case. If we get an outsider PM it will be because the political parties have failed to provide an adequate choice of candidates, make compromises where needed, and the electorate has failed to think carefully about the choice of candidates as well as the policies they represent, and vote accordingly.
Tourists under siege
Over the past month, the military have been hitting the islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao hard and selectively closing certain businesses, namely hostels. Over 100 were closed on Koh Phangan and more than a dozen on Koh Tao, including all the most popular ones. The young backpackers have not gone and stayed in expensive resorts but rather not come at all, with a 50% drop in bookings on Hostelworld compared to last year on Phangan. This also effects tourism-related businesses including dive shops and bike-rental shops. There is a general feeling of being under siege as the military dismantles the tourism industry in order to save it. In addition, there appears to be a new "secret law" that states foreigners cannot be directors in a Thai LLC that offers accommodation, which now has lawyers scrambling.
Koh Tao Resident
'Old guard' in a fury
The Thai "old guard's" indignation at the temerity of so-called "young blood" Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit's announced intention to form a new political party has interesting historical precedents.
"How dare the whippersnapper?" I can hear them muttering in their geriatric fury as they contemplate whether he has "crossed the line" or not.
I have just been re-reading parts of A History of Thailand, the excellent political, economic, social and cultural history of Thailand by co-authors Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and I came across the following parallels.
In 1868, King Chulalongkorn ascended the throne at the age of 15.
He assembled a group of his siblings, of which there were many, together with young members of the great households, including the Bunnag, Saeng Xuto and Amatyakun families.
Specifically, they called themselves "Young Siam", defining their antagonists as "Old Siam" and part of the past. They implemented many reforms that put Siam on the road to modern nationhood.
The authors state that "One of the first investments made ... was in military power", and for the first time army officers and soldiers were paid a regular salary.
King Chulalongkorn has gone down in history as "The Great", but it is a pity that the army he fostered has seen fit to abuse its power no less than 12 times since 1932 to overthrow democracy.
More speed to Thanathorn. If I were a Thai citizen, I would have no hesitation in voting for him.
Trudeau rots Canada
A young Thai tycoon has launched a new political party with its eye on attracting youth. One should remember the Canadian fiasco with Justin Trudeau, rich, (handsome to some) but with absolutely no political experience or vision. Canada is rotting under his leadership.
Remember the old proverb: "All that glitters is not gold." It is also worth being prudent to "look before you leap".
Worse with no freedom
Re: "The political economy of a regime", (Opinion, March 14).
Suranand Vejjajiva seems to imply that political and administrative systems of a country will have consequential effects on the nation's development and economic growth in that democratically elected government should provide positive effects whereas central-command/authoritarian regime would result in negative effects on growth.
The assertion is most likely acceptable if the democratically elected government is not riddled with corruption and manages to raise people's income, with equality. Otherwise, it's no better than an authoritarian or totalitarian regime that promotes economic growth, except that it allows free speech. A far worse situation is when we live with the current, more corrupt regime, with limited growth, and we are deprived of freedom of expression.
The past few weeks appear to have brought nothing but bad news for Thai citizens but I feel it's wrong to see it as failing confidence. It's much more likely continued disbelief. Their institutions are doing so badly that you have to ask if there are any which are fit for the purpose, or are they all minimum performers? The police were handed what looked like a slam dunk in a poaching case with pictures, video and soundtrack all appearing to be absolute proof of a rich tycoon hunting trip in a national forest where a small party killed protected species.
Out of all this hard and substantial evidence, they appear to have been quite capable of building a case as solid as the morning mist. The anti-corruption institutions still seem unable to find any corruption anywhere, at any time, until it is dropped in their laps by temporary student workers. They, too, were handed a pretty straightforward case needing nothing more than an acceptable, truthful answer from a general substantiating his ownership, or not, of several expensive watches, but three months later they apparently haven't received an answer.
Our prime minister, having quickly found reasons to pontificate on protesters and student mime performers, has been as silent as a cardboard cutout on the activities of the numerous government officials caught up in robbing the poor to invest in glamourous houses and cars. Only the continued existence of a vast media network in the hands of the government and army has prevented the sort of late-night comedy that has harassed the US president ever since his election, and provided years of hilarity in the UK from the likes of Spitting Image to Not The 9 O'Clock News.
Sure there would have been a TV Crimes Act if Thailand allowed the media free rein on the non-stop comedy show that passes at present for diligent due process.
The city of smog
Over the past weeks, the Bangkok Post has published reports and opinion pieces about air pollution, discussing PM 10 and PM 2.5 but there have been no updates. If we want to succeed in improving air quality we have to make people aware of this terrible situation in and around Bangkok. When I drive from Hua Hin on a normal day with sunglasses in the direction of Bangkok, I have to remove them after about 100km since there is no more sun, just smog. Waiting for rain is not a real solution to the problem. It has to be tackled from the emission side -- traffic, industry, etc.
Fanciful gun stats
Re: "Trigger-happy Thais", (PostBag, March 13).
It's almost unbelievable to read that the arch-conservative Michael Setter is "incredibly frustrated" by the "media hyper-attention" to the latest school mass slaughter which took place last month in the US. Should the media ignore these atrocities, which happen on a fairly regular basis? That innocent young lives should be taken so often in a country where firearms can be purchased almost everywhere by almost everyone?
As for comparing this to the situation in Thailand, when was the last time such an atrocity took place in this country? And from where does Mr Setter obtain the information that "the rate of gun deaths in Thailand is more than twice that of America"?
Adding to that is a quote claiming the overall murder rate "approximates the global average". This I very much doubt to be true.
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