Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Measurements of Abhisit’s Failure Series Part III – Corruption

The military installed puppet government led by Abhisit Vejjijiva has been called “the most corrupt in Thai history.”

Even crazy PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul recognized the overwhelming corruption in the Abhisit regime. "I believe there is more corruption now (the Abhisit administration) than during the Thaksin administration," Sondhi said in 2010.

Transparency International (TI) is a non-governmental organization that monitors and publicizes corporate and political corruption in international development. Since 1995, TI has issued an annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), a comparative listing of corruption worldwide.  It is interesting to see how Thailand has been ranked with regards to other countries when it comes to corruption.  Below are the tabulated and graphed rankings of Thailand based upon TI’s findings (a lower ranking is better).

Thailand’s Corruption Perceptions Index Rankings from 1999 to 2010:

The sharp increase in corruption between 2006 and 2007 can be directly attributed to the leaders of the September 2006 military coup.  There are those who would want everyone to believe that the Thai military are these great campaigners against corruption, the white horse riding out to save the Thai people from the evil of Shinawatra. They are bloated, overpaid, power mad and inherently corrupt.

The Thai military then installed Abhisit as PM in December 2008 and Thailand’s international corruption perception ranking has remained at an embarrassing level.

So what happened? Abhisit was supposed to be regarded as a relatively “clean” politician.

The reason lies in one of the many fundamental weaknesses of his premiership — he willingly held on to power only with the support of networks of politicians, generals and bureaucrats whose reputation for “cleanness” did not match his own, and who epitomized the patronage politics that has long plagued Thailand.

The army budget has doubled since the 2006 military coup and recent army procurement deals have even raised questions of whether military corruption has worsened since the coup. These include a 350 million baht ($11.4 million) purchase of a leaky surveillance blimp in 2009 and more than 700 UK-made GT200 bomb detectors that turned out to be an embarrassing scam — they are lumps of plastic with no working mechanical parts.

Months into Abhisit’s $42-billion three-year Khem Khaeng government economic stimulus program, two government ministers resigned in scandals linked to abuse of the funds.  Allegations ranged from irregularities in the procurement of hospital equipment and school supplies to rigged bidding process on construction projects.

Then there were more sinister types of corruption like in 2009 when flood victims in Phatthalung province became nauseous after eating spoiled canned fish products which were donated through the Social Development and Human Security Ministry.

Of course, we shouldn’t forget about Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban, who, as head of the Thai Palm Oil commission, engineered a shortage of palm oil and ensured that his family - prominent palm oil growers in Surat Thani - got a big slice of the 4 billion baht profit made by the major palm oil families down south.

I’d continue listing more corruption during Abhisit’s regime but I’m tired and it would just sound mean anyway.

Since it is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, I will, instead, post four pictures of Abhisit with the four most corrupt individuals in Thailand over the last three years.

These pictures remind me of three separate but similar famous sayings we have here in the US:

1.    A man is known by the company he keeps.

2.    He that lies down with dogs will rise up with fleas.


3.    Abhisit Vejjajiva is a lying and corrupt bastard with blood on his hands.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Horse of a Multi-Color? It Looks Yellow to Me

Last week about 50 people protested outside the Japanese embassy against that government’s decision to issue a special one week visa for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to enter their country. These pathetic individuals were led by Civil Network against Thaksin's Corruption Pardon coordinator and noted fascist Tul Sitthisomwong.

The fact that Thaksin is visiting Japan in order to offer assistance to the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami makes these so called “multi-color shirt” protesters in Bangkok truly low life scum. Even if Thaksin’s visit is self-serving, any group who would try to deny any chance of aid to disaster victims is the lowest of the low.

This should help prove to everyone that the multi-color shirts are really the yellow shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in disguise.

Due to pending court cases on charges of terrorism and many other criminal acts some of the PAD members and leaders have avoided openly showing their favorite yellow color, and instead they wear other colors when demonstrating their shameless hate.

Do these two protesters look familiar?
And Tul Sitthisomwong has often spoken about fascism on PAD stages such as the time these terrorists took control of the Bangkok airports in 2008 (video).

They call Yingluck Shinawatra a clone of her brother, however a better example of a Thai cloning would be Tul Sitthisomwong and his beloved mentor Sondhi Limthongkul similar to Dr. Evil and Mini-me in the second and third Austin Powers movies: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Austin Powers in Goldmember.

Thailand's Version of Mini-Me and Dr. Evil

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Thais of Texas

I am happy to report that Abhisit and his ilk have not destroyed the good perception that Americans have of Thais. I only need to take you on a trip in the state I live in, Texas, to illustrate this. I’ll start in Denton, just north of Dallas.

Earlier this week, on August 15th, it was reported that Thai businessman and University of North Texas (UNT) alumnus, Charn Uswachoke, will donate $22 million to the school to help boost its prominence in business, music and engineering.

Charn Uswachoke
Uswachoke received his master’s degree in business administration from the Denton, Texas university in 1973 and later became a leader in the development of Thailand’s semiconductor industry. 

In 1995, he donated gifts of $1 million and $1.2 million. Those gifts were earmarked for music, business and international programs.

Uswachoke also made headlines in 1994 when he purchased 500 UNT football season tickets for $10,000 and donated them to various local groups. At the time UNT was seeking to move up to Division I-A in football and needed to sell an average of 17,000 tickets per home game to qualify.

I owe a lot to UNT and to Denton,” Uswachoke said. “Denton is my second home.”

Denton and UNT owes a lot of gratitude to Mr. Uswachoke.

Now let’s travel 180 miles south down I35/I45 to Huntsville, Texas – the home of Sam Houston State University (SHSU).

In the 1970’s, Thaksin Shinawatra became the first foreign student to enter the criminal justice doctoral program at SHSU. While going to school in Huntsville, Mr. Shinawatra, his wife, Potjaman, and their three children immersed themselves in the Texas culture. She held a job and he worked at a Burger King and got up every morning at 3 a.m. for a Houston Chronicle newspaper route.

He made a lasting impression on his professors, including the head of the department, Dr. Beto.

"Dr. Beto, who had a part in admitting Thaksin and others into the (doctoral) program, said anybody who comes from the land of Thaksin is good enough for him," said Rolando Del Carmen, an SHSU professor who taught Mr. Shinawatra in the 1970s. "So, he opened the door for international students in the (doctoral) program, and it remains that way today."

Thaksin has maintained his ties with SHSU. In 1996 he received the Outstanding Criminal Justice Alumnus Award and Distinguished Alumni Award from SHSU. In 2002, he returned to SHSU to receive the Sam Houston Humanitarian Award based upon his notable contributions to humanity and responsible and distinguished leadership and service.

Thaksin Shinawatra Receiving Sam Houston Humanitarian Award

Throughout the years, he has been honored with many awards, however he said this one holds a special place in his heart.

"I have received many awards during my life, and I would not normally care, but this one is special to me because it comes from my university -- a place that I am proud to say I was a student at," Thaksin said. "I gained a lot of knowledge from Sam Houston and started my family life here, so it is special to me."

But Thais don’t have to be rich or famous to cast a positive image of their nationality. Travel south on I45 for about 79 miles.

If it seems like you can't throw a rock without hitting a Thai restaurant in Houston these days, you can thank Darawan Charoenrat. Charoenrat, the patriarch of the family that's quietly run Kanomwan in the East End for decades, was a pioneer in bringing Thai food and flavors to Houston before passing away in June 2010.

Kanomwan Thai Restaurant - Houston, Texas
Even as the restaurant grew in size and reputation, Charoenrat and his wife ran most of the operation: He taking orders and running the register, she cooking the food. Unlike others who dumbed down Thai cuisine to suit our American palates, Kanomwan stayed true to authentic original recipes.

The furious pace kept Charoenrat famously gruff — customers referred to him lovingly as the Thai Nazi (a play on Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi") — but he was known to soften, even smile, with prompt orderers or especially if asked about his family.

Though Charoenrat was often brusque, barking, "It's not time for you to order yet!" or "You should order this!" he came off more like a difficult grandparent than a heartless dictator. Diners willing to go along with his, shall we say, suggestions, found his bossiness to be part of the restaurant's charm, and tales of the "Thai Nazi" encouraged others to go and see him for themselves.

But those who got to know Charoenrat were able to pierce through his gruff exterior and discover his soft spots for teachers (he was one himself back in Thailand) and families with kids. In fact, when the news of Charoenrat's death broke, many of his regular customers thought immediately of his grandson. At dinner service, the Thai Nazi was often joined at the register by his young grandson, who apprenticed for him, ringing up bills, making change and offering customers a piece of Juicy Fruit gum on their way out the door.

Gracious, honorable, hard working, kind and generous are the true traits associated with Thai people. The scary thing is that there are those who are trying to redefine who a Thai really is.

Dr. Tul Sitthisomwong was once quotedthat, speaking as a doctor, love for the country and the king was embedded only in Thais’ DNA, not that of other peoples. It was a pity that many Thais had mutated and did not have the love for the king in their DNA and should not be called Thai.” Tul is the leader of the multicolor shirts, an antidemocratic mob in Thailand. You may remember that it was the multicolor shirts who was demanding that the military forcibly crackdown on peaceful protesters in Bangkok last year.

And you may also remember that General Prayuth Chan-ocha more than happily accommodated Tul and his mob of misanthropes. Prayuth was quoted as saying in a recent New York Times article, "If you are skeptical of the monarchy, you cannot be considered a Thai person." It’s not surprising that Prayuth and Tul are trying to set a warped definition of what constitutes being a Thai. They must realize that they are the ones who can never measure up. And they never will. 
Who are the real Thai Nazis?

Tul and Prayuth

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Measurements of Abhisit’s Failure Series Part II – Press Freedom

The end of Abhisit Vejjajiva’s tenure as Prime Minister should be celebrated. Nearly every measurement of freedom of speech, civic, and human rights plummeted since he was placed in charge by the Thai military in December 2008. One of his most visible failures was press freedom where he continuously denied Thailand’s citizens this basic right in order for him to remain in power.
A free press is the symbol of a free people. An independent, well-informed press is a powerful check on arbitrary governments and irresponsible administrators. For the news media are agents of the public, which bring to the notice of the people acts of injustice or oppression, or mal-administration that would otherwise have remained hidden away from public knowledge.

Even the most powerful autocrat, like Abhisit was, is forced to take note of public opinion as reflected in a free press. That is why a regimented press is the instrument of autocracy, and why a dictator deprived Thailand of its press freedom.

This depravation of press freedom in Thailand under Abhisit’s regime can actually be measured using the annual Press Freedom Index Reports compiled and published by the media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The Press Freedom Index is an annual ranking of countries based upon RSF’s assessment of their press freedom records. These reports are published every year, usually in October, and is based on a questionnaire sent to partner organizations of RSF (14 freedom of expression groups in five continents) and its 130 correspondents around the world, as well as to journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists.

The survey asks questions about direct attacks on journalists and the media as well as other indirect sources of pressure against the free press. RSF is careful to note that the index only deals with press freedom, and does not measure the quality of journalism. In the Press Freedom Index, the lower the evaluation score the freer the country.

Below are Thailand’s Press Index scores and rankings for every year since 2002.

Plotting these scores and rankings better illustrates the dramatic slide of Press Freedom in Thailand during Abhisit’s reign.

A plot of the Press Freedom Index rankings for Thailand shows a similarly alarming trend.

In 2010, Thailand slipped 23 places to the ranking of 153rd on the press freedom index. This is mainly due to Abhisit’s decision to shut down much of the opposition media and for killing two journalists and wounding some fifteen others while they covered the army massacre of innocent protesters in Bangkok in April and May of last year.

Another incident which contributed to the lowest Press Freedom ranking in Thailand’s history was the decision by Abhisit to have a military sniper assassinate pro-democracy General Khattiya Sawatdiphol (aka Seh Daeng) during an interview with a New York Times reporter on May 13, 2010.

Although the 2011 Press Freedom Index won’t be out until October, it is anticipated that Thailand’s score and ranking will still be miserably low due to the authoritarian policies of Abhisit against the press. For instance, he has shut down dozens of radio stations and has imprisoned Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, an editor of a magazine which opposed the authoritarian policies of Abhisit.

But there is a light on the horizon and the future looks bright for Thailand with regards to freedom of press. The policies of the new democratically elected Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, are expected to put an end to Thailand’s “slide into the abyss” caused by Abhisit Vejjajiva.