Tag Archives: Thailand

Inviting Thaksin for Tea

One inventive protester set up his little site like a performance art.

Please send Thaksin back from Britian for some english tea and biscuits, he can sit on the blue chair.


Caricature of Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej


Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s government being the hand puppet of the Thakin government


Posing for the locals.

Street Scene of the Anti Government Protest Site


The barricades installed demarking the site , a portrait of revered Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej displayed


The main road leading to the Government House. The protest area has grown bigger with tents setting up along the pedestrian pathways.


The television tents where televised speeches are shown


The protest stage where the people would gather. Speeches were being blasted from the loudspeakers from televised programs of PAD members.


One of the roads being over taken by the PAD, People’s Alliance for Democracy they had taken over one of the Ministry’s garden compound


Makeshift areas of protesters, there were many Thai flag hanging all over the area.


This stretch of the road were selling t-shirts and other anti-government wares.

Portraits of Anti-Government Protesters

Photos of Thai Protesters


Standing up for the Thai King’s Anthem


A protester having breakfast. All meals and drinks are free and provided for by anti-government supporters.

People

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University students visiting the area

Photos of Bangkok Anti Government Protester Area

Visited the Protest site on a sunday morning. The area was barricaded by the protesters, tentages were set up along the road leading to the Government House. The whole atmosphere was more like a funfair feel than a protest site.

The thai protesters standing up in respect of the king, as they played the Thai King’s Anthem.

This was the kitchen quarter set up surrounding one of the Bangkok Ministry building. A huge screen was projecting repeats of the protester’s speeches.

Protesters setting up home at one of the smaller streets

The tv area was set up with people watching speeches made by prominent PAD leaders

I’m back from Bangkok’s State of Emergency

Came back from Bangkok. It was business as usual in the city, people still went to work, there were still massive traffic everywhere, life went on as usual despite the Prime Minister’s state of emergency declaration. Nothing much really happened.

Even visited the Protest Area of the PAD (People’s Alliance for Democracy), quite uniquely Thai, it was rather peaceful. There were a dismarkation of the area with barriers. People brought their whole families including their kids. There were many food stalls giving out apparently free drinks and meals. Stalls selling T-shirts with the protest logos. It felt somewhat like a funfair with people living on big tents.

On the serious side of things, had conversations with some Thais and longtime residents about the whole issue. The general feeling coming from the middle class and those living in Bangkok was firstly the shock and anger generated from Former Prime Minister Thaksin’s sale of his communications corporation to a Singaporean corporation with tax free profits of a few billion dollars, to the unjust way the thai political system is strudded towards massive voting buying and the perpetual domination of large corporance of old political parties such as the People’s Power Party in all levels of governance. The middle class and the more educated locals from the cities demanded a massive shake down and change of their own democratic political system. As to the direction of where they want it to be, remains to be seen.

Will upload photos and write more commentaries of my whole trip soon.

Update :

Here’s my photos

Demonstration Wares

Political Art

Samut on Toilet Portables

Inviting Thaksin for Tea

Street Scene of Protest site

Portraits of Protesters

Protesters Sites and Camps

Article : Thailand on vote-buying and the patronage system

This Article gave me a little understanding on Thai Politics and how the PAD and the middle class Thais felt about their government and politicial system.

The facts about vote-buying and the patronage system

By Chang Noi

The Nation, Thailand

Over the last couple of years, concern about vote-buying has been on the rise. The story goes like this. Voters upcountry are too poor and too poorly educated. Some sell their vote for cash on the spot. Others are victims of “the patronage system” and obey the instructions of a patron on how to vote in return for continuing patronage of various kinds.

The argument then continues: vote-buying and the patronage system mean that one-man/one-vote elections cannot work in Thailand. There needs to be some “Thai-style” alternative. This might be some corporatist method of representation such as the People’s Alliance for Democracy proposed. It might mean diminishing the power of the elected Parliament, and returning more power to the bureaucracy.

According to legend, vote-buying began in spectacular fashion in Roi Et in 1981, engineered by people in the military. It then swelled over the following two decades. At election time, banks calculate massive rises in money circulation, and journalists love describing complex systems involving lotteries. A brilliant study done in Ayutthaya in the mid-1990s showed that monks, gunmen, and local officials were all deeply involved. Vote-buying is part of the political culture; of that there is little doubt.

But vote-buying is not a simple matter. The practice has been in place for a quarter-century. The number of elections has multiplied – for Parliament, Senate, municipality, provincial council, sub-district council, and so on. Thais have become some of the most experienced voters in the world. There has been a lot of learning about how to use the vote.

In the early history of Thai vote-buying, candidates thrust red notes into voters’ hands in order to create an obligation. Once a voter had accepted the candidate’s generosity, it would be bad manners not to repay that generosity when casting the vote. But this kind of naive transaction did not last long. By the mid-1990s, some voters would take money from every candidate, and then vote how they pleased. Others would only take from a candidate they had already decided to vote for, in order not to create an obligation.

Candidates still had to offer money. Not doing so would risk being branded as “ungenerous” and thus not worth electing. This was particularly true of candidates known to be rich. Vote-buying has thus become a bit like a candidate’s deposit, distributed among the voters rather than paid to the authorities.

By the mid-1990s, vote negotiation had become much more complex than these simple retail transactions. Voters understood that candidates had the potential to offer much greater benefits than a few red notes. They could bring infrastructure spending and development projects with much more impact in the locality. Communities negotiated with candidates to promise scheme, and held them to their promises by the threat of withdrawing their vote at the next poll. Parliament created the “MPs fund” to enable sitting members to fulfil these promises. Lots of local infrastructure got built.

Since then, the system has shifted again. The 1997 constitution began a deliberate attempt to de-link this kind of local pork-barrel from national politics. The funding for local schemes has been substantially transferred from the national budget to local government. MPs have less influence on central-budget spending, and the MPs fund has disappeared. Elected provincial councils and municipalities now have big budgets. Many politicians have followed the money from national to local politics.

At the same time, the profile of the electorate has changed. The great 1986-1996 boom boosted incomes, and the 1997 bust only temporarily knocked them back. The expansion of secondary education in the 1980s began to work through to the electorate.

Then Thaksin changed the game in national politics. He promised some attractive re-distributive schemes, and delivered them. He centralised control over a fifth of the budget under his own executive authority, and toured the country dishing this out. The party and the prime minister became more important patrons than the local MP. Although the 2007 Constitution has reversed some of this change, the memory still dominates.

In the last couple of years, there have been studies of election practice in the North, Northeast, and South. The decision on casting a vote is now very complex and involves the party, the candidate, and the money. In the South, voters feel a strong emotional pull to vote Democrat. In the North and Northeast, Thaksin’s schemes have created a strong pull towards the People Power Party/Thai Rak Thai. Yet the candidate also undergoes scrutiny. Is he a local person, someone close to us? Can he get things done, and does he have the track record to prove it? Is he reasonably honest? Does he have the right kind of friends? Finally, does he prove his generosity with a gift? Only candidates known to have modest wealth are excused this obligation, yet can still be elected on grounds of their social contribution.

At the recent poll, there did not seem to be much money around. After three elections in three years, pockets were empty. Candidates feared disqualification. The issue at stake in the poll was so stark, that a few hundred baht was not likely to matter.

So why the current panic about vote-buying? The upcountry electorate is richer, better educated, and more experienced at elections than ever before. In truth, the problem is not that upcountry voters don’t know how to use their vote, and that the result is distorted by patronage and vote-buying. The problem is that they have learnt to use the vote only too well. Over four national polls, they have chosen very consistently and very rationally.

And, of course, that may be the real problem. Back when many upcountry electors sold their votes, and as a result their weight in national politics was zero, nobody cared so much about vote-buying. But now the electors have got smart, they have to be stopped. The bleating about vote-buying and patronage politics is simply an attempt to undermine electoral democracy because it seems to be working.

Privacy Policy © 2006 Nation Multimedia Group Thailand

http://www.nationmultimedia.com

News :Thai protesters enjoy free food, $3 massage

By JOCELYN GECKER,Associated Press Writer AP – Saturday, September 6

BANGKOK, Thailand – Once open only to the ruling elite, Thailand’s stately Government House has turned into a cross between a refugee camp and a village fairground.

Thousands of anti-government protesters occupying the prime minister’s office compound have set up a tent city complete with free food, outdoor showers, entertainment, massages and lots of manicured shrubs for hanging laundry to dry.

The siege, in its 11th day Friday, is aimed at forcing Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to resign. The demonstrators have not succeeded in kicking him out of office, but they have kept him out his office.

To ease the kinks caused by round-the-clock protesting, massage services are available under the shade of palm trees for $3 an hour.

In a live radio broadcast Thursday, Samak called the situation a national embarrassment and refused to step down _ drawing boos and jeers from thousands of protesters fanning themselves on lawn chairs outside his office.

“I am outside and can’t work properly,” Samak said, his speech broadcast from a sound stage set up on the Government House lawn.

Samak initially based himself at a military headquarters outside Bangkok, but his aides say he has lately worked from an office at the Defense Ministry.

“Is it shameful? Yes, it is,” Samak said.

Still, authorities have been reluctant to use force against the crowd for fear they will be denounced for sparking violence with the protesters, who have armed themselves with makeshift weapons and vowed to resist any attempt to remove them.

Also, violence, or the perception that it was imminent, could cause the military to stage a coup with the excuse that it was necessary to restore order, as it did in September 2006. It was demonstrations by the People’s Alliance for Democracy, which is leading the current protest, that sparked the instability that led to the coup.

The new demonstration is built on the alliance’s belief that Western-style democracy does not work for Thailand. It says the ballot box gives too much weight to the impoverished rural majority allegedly susceptible to vote buying that breeds corruption. It wants Parliament to be revamped so most lawmakers would be appointed rather than elected.

The protest has caused one of the biggest political crises since Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932. It is the first time in the country’s history that civilians have overrun the seat of government.

Built in the early 20th century and modeled after a Venetian palace, the Gothic-style Government House is one of Bangkok’s most distinguished buildings.

The alliance’s security volunteers sit behind a barbed-wire barricade at the entrance, which is stacked with motorcycle helmets for protection and golf clubs, bamboo rods and rudimentary shields.

“Welcome! Would you like something to eat?” asked Pongping Kumna, a protester manning the free food stand just past the entrance gate. Tables were piled high with donated food, many ordered from popular Bangkok restaurants.

Recent offerings included sauteed chicken with chili and basil, Thai-style noodles from a famous downtown noodle shop, McDonald’s hamburgers and, for dessert, chocolate doughnuts and shaved ice with fruit flavoring.

“We have everything we need here. There’s no reason to leave,” said Pongping, 44, a clothing shop owner from the southern beach town of Krabi who had camped at the compound for nine days.

Protesters, mostly royalists, wealthy and middle-class urban residents and union activists, have tapped into the Government House’s electricity system. Extension cords charge mobile phones and power televisions.

The anti-government channel ASTV, owned by protest leader Sondhi Limthongkul, is broadcast round-the-clock on TV sets scattered around the grounds.

Fiery anti-Samak speakers take the stage, alternating with pop singers, like one recently crooning James Taylor songs as the crowd clapped and swayed.

When supplies are needed, protest leaders take the microphone and call for donations from supporters, who have responded by trucking in portable toilets and rudimentary outdoor showers with curtains for privacy.

The stench of urine and garbage is a problem they are trying to address.

Signs taped to the building’s ornate facade note: “The Government House is the property of the Thai people. So all Thais should keep it clean.”

For medical needs, there are several first-aid stations, which also hand out free shampoo, soap, mouthwash and razors.

Doctors from hospitals and clinics around Thailand have taken leaves to join the protest, said Bangkok ophthalmologist Somporn Reepolmania, pointing out a surgeon, dentist, psychiatrist and anesthesiologist.

“We are protesting against Samak and against the corrupt politics of Thailand,” he said. “The government has no morals, no ethics, and the system doesn’t work. We have to change it.”

Protesters say they are not afraid of conflict. Some have traveled long distances to take part in the demonstrations.

“I flew from Los Angeles to Bangkok to be with (my) people,” said United Airlines flight attendant Maree Lertphraewphun, who has lived in the United States for 38 years. She requested vacation to join the protests.

“If I happen to die, I will die with them,” she said.

Article : Another bitter lesson that may get us nowhere

STOPPAGE TIME
Another bitter lesson that may get us nowhere

By Tulsathit Taptim
The Nation
Published on September 3, 2008

OUR luck could only hold so far. If Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag was right – that everything happening in Thailand is part of a democratic evolution – then we have been getting the hardest possible lesson. Things have come a long, long way from the day when the People’s Alliance for Democracy was seemingly a pure ideological force, whose members had nothing more complicated in their hearts than the feeling that something was morally wrong with the Temasek deal.

We have gone through countless soul-searching exercises since an extremely rich politician refused to pay taxes when he should have. Protests were labelled by some as a “blow to democracy”, but we thought, “What’s wrong with people taking to the streets to denounce corruption?”

Then a coup tested our conscience and, just when we thought that was the toughest we could bear, the dissolution of a party that had won unprecedented support from the poor followed.

The coup and disbanding of the Thai Rak Thai Party turned out to be just initial bumps in our roller-coaster quest for the right morals. A reincarnation of Thai Rak Thai swept a general election, a landslide victory that, to some, endorsed democracy but, to others, amplified doubts about the system.

When the new government plotted to change the new Constitution, deemed by one side a legacy of the coup and by the other necessary medicine to cure democratic ills, new turmoil erupted.

We prayed it wouldn’t degenerate into a war, because this is where everyone discards morals that are held so dearly at first and embraces the very means they used to abhor. The wishful thinking ended last week when the PAD lost its patience and took civil disobedience a step too far. The brief seizure of National Broadcast Television and occupation of Government House were provocative and hardly justifiable, and when the opposing camp staged an even more belligerent rally at nearby Sanam Luang, Rajadamnoen wept again.

It’s too easy, however, to blame the PAD’s provocation, or the rival protesters’ blood thirst, or the police’s conspicuously poor preparation. The “causes” of Tuesday’s tragedy could stretch back years and they have been blurred by the failure of both sides of the conflict to uphold fundamental principles.

Where should we start our diagnosis? Should we go as far back as the time when Thaksin Shinawatra was spraying his shares to nominees all over the place and still managed to slip through constitutional safeguards to become ruler of Thailand? Or was Tuesday’s infamy a more direct result of his rivals’ inability to take election results as his absolution?

We have tempted and teased our fortune – by ignoring guiding values or using them selectively. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that both sides have been claiming that they fight for the same ideal goal – a good political system – yet don’t mind killing each other to achieve it. Both share the same bitterness, anger and confusion, and suffer the same curse of flying high one day and having their hopes and dreams upended the next.

How can a nation break apart with its people so alike? Why is our nation so fragile with us so “flexible”? It seems clear now that we are not divided by ideologies, but rather pure lust for power.

Last year’s referendum was purportedly on a charter but in reality it was largely over one man. The military that ousted Thaksin practically repeated his tracks, though on a relatively minor scale. The PAD decried the siege of The Nation’s headquarters by pro-Thaksin mobs more than two years ago, only to end up terrorising the NBT staff itself last week. The courts are “just” and must be obeyed as long as they rule against our enemies and until the judges turn against us.

If Tej was right, our democratic evolution still has a long way to go. We have learned a lot but have still achieved only a little. One side condemns the other side for sacrificing values and respect for human rights, only to sacrifice its own values and principles.

Is there a force stronger than democratic aspirations, one that always lurks to tip our balance? Or is this just a myth about democracy – that the only way to attain it is through breaking its fundamental laws?

Will we be able to complete the study and emerge as a competent nation, made healthy through the hardest, most unforgettable lessons? Or are we stuck and will finally be doomed, because we are using raw instincts to try to achieve something so ideal?

Privacy Policy © 2006 Nation Multimedia Group Thailand http://www.nationmultimedia.com

I’m off to Bangkok….

from the Nation Website

Deja Vu again for Thailand, as People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and other anti-government decided to protest against the Thai prime minister Samak Sundaravej just barely a few months in parliament, demanding that he should step down. The last time in 2006, the rioters turned ugly, overthrowing Thaksin, the former prime minster’s government. Thaksin Shinawatra was accused of massive corruption and had fled to Britain.

This time, the anti-government protesters accuse Sundaravej of being the lackey of Thaksin and of election rigging.

On Tuesday 2 Sept 2008, the prime minster declaration state of emergency, disallowing any assembly of more than five people. Not a good idea, as it may aggravate the situation with the protesters camping out at the Government House having yet another excuse to storm the streets.

It had been a tense period, PAD managed to close down Phuket airport on Friday and Hat Yai on Tuesday. Hopefully not Bangkok airport which I would need to be flying out by end of the week.

FYI : PAD was organised by a group of right winged businessmen and political activists. The protesters carries images of the King, Bhumibol Adulyadej declaring absolute reverence during their camp out at the Government house. Wonder if there is any significance?

While I shouldn’t comment on the Thai Politics, I really feel this is once again politically motivated by the higher powers. I wonder how long Thailand can remain a democracy with all these infighting going on. Everyone is jostling for power and Thailand is rearing itself to become military rule once more.

Not good for the Thai economy, not good for ASEAN region. The tourists are fleeing.

A few countries including Singapore had advised against travelling to Thailand.

A little bit of drama the whole day, as a group of people were suppose to travel with me had decided to cancel their trip.

I have decided to travel to Bangkok inspite of it, bags packed, cameras ready, airticket in hand.
Let’s see what’s the real situation there.

PS : Hope the Thai government don’t close down internet access. In the meantime I have scheduled up a few Thai related news for archiving in the blog

Phuket Vegetarian Festival

A festival I have wanted to visited for the longest time.

I’m planning a trip to Phuket, Thailand for the Vegetarian Festival which starts from 29Sept – 7 October 2008. Update : Bought my airticket via AirAsia, I’m finally going!

The festival’s actual name, the Nine Emperor God (Kiu Ong Lah) festival is held annually in the ninth month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar is unique to the Chinese community here in Phuket. The locals, observe a 10 day vegetarian diet along with spiritual cleansing similar in style like the Indians worshippers of Lord Murugan Thaipusam Festival.

Many sacred rituals are performed during this period involves fire-walking, self mutilations and torture, divine posssesions, body/face piercings.

Gruesome Video on the piercings and procession

National Geographic Taboo Documentary – not very detailed and more related to the ritual understandings and cultural aspects.

If you understand Cantonese or read Mandarin, here’s a brief detailed documentary on what the ceremony is all about.

Bookmark https://ihavetravellust.wordpress.com/2008/04/11/phuket-vegetarian-festival-october-2008/