Thai politics

Bloomberg on Pheu Thai’s Proposal to Rewrite Constitution

Bloomberg reports today:

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s party will propose overhauling a constitution written after a 2006 coup that ousted her brother, a move that threatens to reignite political discord.

The Pheu Thai party will present a plan to parliament tomorrow to create a Constitution Drafting Assembly comprising 99 people that has 180 days to draw up a new constitution, spokesman Prompong Nopparit said by phone today. A nationwide referendum will be held after it’s completed, he said by phone.

“The Pheu Thai party sees that the 2007 constitution is not democratic,” Prompong said. “It weakens political parties, weakens politicians and limits the freedom of people. The constitution should be drafted by people for people.”

Moving to rewrite the constitution is Yingluck’s biggest challenge to a military establishment that six years ago overthrew former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra since she took power in August. Moves by Thaksin’s allies in 2008 to change the constitution sparked violent street protests by his yellow-shirted opponents that shut down parts of Bangkok and culminated in the seizure of the city’s airports.

“The government thinks it is confident enough to make a move that will certainly upset the military and anti-Thaksin forces,” said Michael Montesano, a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. “I’d be very surprised if the Yellow Shirts can bring out the numbers they were able to bring out several years ago.”

Worth a read.

(All emphasis mine.)

Thai politics

Pheu Thai wins Thailand election: news round-up

2011 07 04 thai elex papers

Some stories that have caught my eye today:

The Economist says that the result is “a smack in the face for the army chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who urged voters on June 14th not to elect “the same people” to run the country and lambasted the red shirts as anti-monarchists.” And:

It is hard to see how General Prayuth, who commanded troops in the 2006 coup, could get along with a PT-led government that includes abrasive red-shirt leaders such as Nattawut Saikua, who has been charged with terrorism. But Phongthep Thepkanjana, an adviser to the party and a former minister, brushes off the implied threat. General Prayuth “is one in 65m”, he says. The election result “is the resolution of the people.”

The New York Times notes that the election “could turn Thai politics on its head and roll back the results of a coup that ousted Mr. Thaksin almost five years ago.” And:

“This is a slap in the face to the establishment for what they’ve done since the military coup in 2006,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University. “This is a new Thailand that they must learn to live with.”

He added: “This whole election is all about the awakened voices. These people discovered that they can actually have access and be connected to the system.”

An editorial in the WSJ argues that mass politics has arrived in Thailand, and “robust institutions” are needed:

As this election showed, Thailand has irrevocably reached the stage where it will be governed by mass parties. Creating the checks and balances to manage that political competition has become the most urgent task.

And on the WSJ’s Exchange blog, financial analysts comment on the election’s potential implications. From the intro:

In the run-up to the election, investors dumped Thai shares, but according to some early indicators, sentiment is positive. The benchmark SET index is up more than 3% at Monday’s open, the baht is surging and spreads on Thai credit default swaps are tighter.

Elsewhere, the Nation provides this graphic detailing the breakdown of the vote. Red is Pheu Thai, and blue is for the Democrat Party.

2011 07 04 nation graphic

Graphic: Nation, via @Mr_Pradit on Twitpic.

Image at top of post: A pic of today’s WSJ and IHT front pages.

Thai politics

Exit polls: Pheu Thai wins in a landslide

AP says:

The opposition party allied to ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was poised for landslide victory Sunday in fractious Thailand’s elections, easily garnering the majority needed to form a new government, according to two respected exit polls.
The Election Commission has yet to release results, but is expected to do so later Sunday.

I’ve been Tweeting observations and photos.

More soon…

Thai politics Thailand

Four Reuters stories on Thai politics

Reuters ran four stories about Thai politics yesterday. One calls Yingluck Shinawatra “populist but pro-business” and provides a summary of her potential business policies:

Private-sector reforms, corporate tax cuts, wage increases and a big boost in domestic consumption could be on the cards for Thailand if Yingluck Shinawatra becomes the country’s first female prime minister after the July 3 general election.

The second story, a summary of the parties facing off, says:

Forty parties will contest a July 3 general election in Thailand, with the ruling Democrat Party and opposition Puea Thai Party jostling for first place and others vying for stakes in what is expected to be a coalition government.

The third piece provides basic details on the number of voters, candidates, parties, etc:

500 seats are up for grabs, an increase of 20 from the 2007 election. There will be 375 constituency seats available from 76 provinces and the capital, Bangkok, which has a quota of 33 of those seats. The remaining 125 seats will be decided by the party list vote.

And finally, the fourth story, a feature, describes Thailand’s “red shirt villages.” From the nut graf:

Ahead of a July 3 national election, dozens of rural communities are branding themselves a “Red Shirt Village” in this poor northeast plateau, home to a third of the country’s population, giving the movement grass-roots muscle to mobilize behind its parliamentary allies, the opposition Puea Thai Party.

Thai politics

Update on the shooting of Pheu Thai candidate Pracha

A few stories from the international media on the shooting the Bangkok Post mentioned this morning:

The FT notes the timing: the attack came less than 24 hours after Prime Minister Abhisit dissolved parliament.

Bloomberg says:

A candidate for Thailand’s main opposition party linked to ex-leader Thaksin Shinawatra was shot and wounded yesterday after a royal decree took effect to dissolve Parliament and hold an election on July 3.

AFP has more on the politician’s links to Thaksin:

A Thai opposition politician close to fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra was shot in an attack that the government said on Wednesday appeared to be politically-motivated with an election looming.


Puea Thai spokesman Jirayu Houngsub said that Pracha had intended to run for re-election in the upcoming vote.

The politician is a staunch supporter of Thaksin and has visited the telecoms tycoon-turned-premier overseas where he lives in self-imposed exile.

Thai politics

Bangkok Post: Ex-Pheu Thai MP shot

2011 05 11 pt shot

Today’s Bangkok Post says an ex-Pheu Thai MP was shot last night but survived. The paper says the attack raises concerns there could be “more violence in the lead-up to the July 3 election”:

Former Pheu Thai MP for Samut Prakan Pracha Prasopdee was shot last night in what is seen as the first election-related violence since the House dissolution on Monday.

Mr Pracha was shot in the back at about 9pm in the Phra Pradaeng area while he was driving his Toyota Camry to Phra Samut Chedi district after helping a local politician campaign for the provincial administration election.

Two men riding a motorcycle approached the right side of his car at Phra Pradaeng intersection and shot at him five times.

The bullets hit his back and pierced his right shoulder while causing minor damage to the car.

Mr Pracha was rushed to Bang Pakok1 Hospital.

Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said Mr Pracha was in a safe condition.

The incident was the first attack on a politician since the royal decree on the House dissolution took effect yesterday, raising concerns there would be more violence in the lead-up to the July 3 election.

(Emphasis mine.)

(Image: Bangkok Post.)

Bangkok Thai politics Thailand

A visit to Pheu Thai’s red shirt exhibition (guest post at BP)

Below is a guest post that appeared yesterday on the Bangkok Pundit blog, which is part of the Asian Correspondent site. Here is a link to the original post.

By Newley Purnell

The red shirt protests, as we know, came to a dramatic and bloody conclusion on May 19, when security forces dispersed anti-government demonstrators from central Bangkok. Throughout the nine weeks of protests, nearly 90 people were killed. 

But red shirt supporters, it might be surprising to know, are still gathering in Bangkok today — albeit on a much smaller scale.

Yesterday I visited the headquarters of the opposition Pheu Thai party, located in a building along Rama IV road. As tomorrow’s by-election approaches, with a Pheu Thai candidate squaring off against a Democrat rival, I wanted to see what the mood was like. 

In addition, I wanted to catch a glimpse of a red shirt exhibition that has been created to mark the two month anniversary of the crackdown. The exhibit, which runs through tomorrow, is designed to highlight the reds’ grievances with the government. Here is a gallery with 14 images of the exhibit.

Columns on the outside of the building were draped in black, and inside there were political banners, photos of injured and dead protesters, and a mannequin dressed as a red shirt protester aiming a slingshot at a figure dressed as a soldier, armed with a rifle, on a balcony above.

A red shirt supporter, dressed as a soldier in camouflage and carrying a plastic toy rifle, walked around chatting with visitors. And there was music — interspersed with the sounds of gunfire. There was even a smoke machine in operation.

Replica weapons and ammunitions were on display, as were bamboo poles of the type used to construct the Silom barricade. Some walls were even draped in plastic black netting, which brought to mind the fabric that had been stretched across the stage at Rajaprasong.

Red T-shirts bearing exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s face were on sale outside the building. Coffee and cookies were available, and red shirt supporters of all ages — clothed in their signature “Truth Today” gear — ambled about, posing for photos in front of the various presentations. A small boy ran around with a red bandana on his head.

According to a handout, the exhibit is called “Seven Days and Seven Agonies of the Thai people.” Various “zones” reflect “insidious rhetoric and an application of double standards,” while another zone — complete with a sample water dispensing machine said to be sold to villages by the government at an unfair markup — alleges government corruption. 

“We want to tell the truth about the events of 19 May and 10 April,” Natawud Duangnil, who was staffing the exhibition, told me. “Every story has been twisted by the government and the media, which is controlled by the government.”

He said that it was unfair to blame the arson attacks, like the one that occurred at the CentralWorld shopping center, on the red shirts. He argued that the fires there began after soldiers had control of the Rajaprasong area, and that troops wouldn’t allow fire fighters to reach the mall to put out the fire.

I told him that many people with whom I’ve spoken are angry at the red shirts for claiming to be non-violent demonstrators — but then fighting with, or harboring, those with guns.

“Thai society has cracked already,” he said. “If the red shirts had guns — if it’s true — then it’s not right. But look at the pictures of the people who died,” he said, gesturing at the exhibit. “They were unarmed.”

I asked Natawud if he is afraid that the government will close the exhibition. “We don’t care because we have a right to do this as a political party,” he said. “Everyone has rights.”

Some people say that the red shirts don’t really want democracy, I said, and that they’re merely mis-guided mercenaries fighting for Thaksin. “That’s just a story from their media,” he said. “Yes, we’re pro-Thaksin. But we don’t care if he comes back or not.”

What’s next for the red shirt movement? “We’re upset. We’re sad. We’re angry,” he said. “I can’t deny that. Look at the peoples’ faces,” he said, referring to the visitors. “They cry. But in our minds, we don’t want anything more than justice.”

According to this Nation story, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said the exhibition should not bend the truth in order to exacerbate divisions among Thai society. The article also notes that Pheu Thai says they’ll take the exhibition on the road to other provinces.

Meanwhile, a story from NNT/Thailand Public Relations Department says that ambassadors from “Germany, Hungary, China, Cambodia, the Netherlands, the UK, India, Australia, and many others” have visited the exhibit.