Fare thee well, my beloved Bimmer…

 

Fare thee well, my beloved Bimmer…

I’m sad to report that it’s farewell at long last to my beloved ‘Bimmer.’ I had it collected last week and driven to Bangkok, where, hopefully it will be sold within the next couple of weeks.

In preparation for its departure I had a local car wash company clean and polish the dear thing and when I went to collect it, it might have been my imagination but it look better than it had when I first bought it three some 3 ½ years ago. The jet black body was gleaming in the late afternoon sunshine like the black obelisk in ‘2001, a Space Odyssey’.

I confess I almost changed my mind yet again and decided to keep it after all, but common sense prevailed and it has now gone forever, hopefully to a beamer lover who will love it like I did, and look after it even better than I did.

 

I know it was the right decision. The slow slung body is simply not suitable for many of the roads in Pattaya, let alone up-country and every time I went out I was taking a chance that I wouldn’t encounter some hidden pot hole that would destroy one of my recently purchased new rims. And as for journeying around Thailand – well the trip to Hua Hin wasn’t too bad, but when I drove to the North East recently, I put an additional, unnecessary  strain on this old head of mine by having to be continually on the lookout and slowing down for bad stretches of  road, which have proliferated since the recent floods.

And although I still enjoy the occasional rush of blood to the head and accelerate past everything in sight, such occasions are becoming few and far between. These days, I am pretty much content to crawl along with the rest of the traffic, rarely overtaking on two lane roads except when the line in front is extremely slow and it is very safe to do so.

 

I have put a deposit on a 4 door (double cab) Triton pick-up and all being well I will pick it up next month. I have opted for the Triton, as not only does it look pretty cool, with its slightly curved body design but also boasts a new, state of the art, 2.5 litre diesel engine that apparently has loads of oomph! It has the same engine as the Pajero, and according to a guy who has driven a 320D Bimmer and the Triton, it goes pretty much as fast! Whether it does or not is debatable, but I am sure that when touring up country I will be able to drive as fast as I did in my beamer – probably faster as I won’t need to slow down so often on the bad roads.

The Triton sells for 300-400k Baht less than the Pajero, and these days I have no need for a 10 seat vehicle. The double cab, which will comfortably seat 5 adults, is more than sufficient for my purposes and it is fitted with most of the mod cons that come with the Pajero. The ride will be a be a bit harder, but to be honest, the Beamer ride is not that great on most Thai roads, so I doubt I will notice much difference.

 

Once delivered, I plan to do a bit of personalising – including putting a nifty ‘cover’ on the back, that will open at the press of a button on the dash board, and I may change out the sound system, depending on the quality of the factory installed stereo. I’m also thinking about putting in leather seats, but need to check out the cost.

So all in all, although I am sad to lose my faithful Beamer which, let’s face it, has been in so many adventures with me, I am looking forward to a new, totally different driving experience. Added to which I will have a new warranty on a new vehicle as opposed to one that is rapidly expiring and will soon expose me to potentially high maintenance costs. Fingers crossed that I find a buyer for the Beamer. Anyone interested?

P.S. In case you were wondering, the slang term ‘Bimmer’ is the correct slang to use for a BMW car. Apparently, the use of the term ‘Beamer’ or ‘Beemer’ for a BMW car is an ‘abomination’. These two words should be solely used for BMW motorcycles.

If you don’t believe me, Google it…

 

Whither Thai politics?

I rarely comment on Thai politics, and since starting this blog back in July 2009, I don’t believe I have actually stated whether I am pro or anti Thaksin – whether I support the Red or Yellow shirts.

For a long time I admit that I jumped on the anti Thaksin bandwagon, and even now, I still believe he has been the most divisive and disruptive force in Thai politics for decades. But if we put the issue of Thaksin and his role to one side for a moment, it is a moot point  as to whether the leaders and policies of the ‘Red Shirts and the Pheu Thai Party  are any worse,  more dishonest and  more corrupt than the leaders and policies of ‘Yellow Shirts’ and  the Democrat Party.

 

I read a fascinating article in the local English language press a couple of weeks ago, which I would like to share with you.

Hopefully this wasn’t staged for television

You might say it was just a TV talk show and you couldn’t take it too seriously. But what Jatuporn Promphan and Suriyasai Takasila revealed about their personal ties was, well, quite revealing.

The handshakes between Jatuporn, the red-shirt leader, and Suriyasai, the yellow-shirt core coordinator, might have been forced by anchorman Woody for a sort of photo-op action shot. But if you listened closely, you might be have been able to reach some conclusions that no academic in-depth analysis could have offered you.

They were both smiling broadly throughout Woody’s morning show on January 5 on Channel 9. They even exchanged nice, warm words with each other.

Jatuporn says he knows almost every core member of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) except its leader Sondhi Limthongkul. The reason is simple. When they were activists, they were working together as part of the student movement to oppose military dictatorship.

Jatuporn was at Ramkhamkaeng University. Suriyasai was attached to Kasetsart University. They belonged to the same group of student leaders in the heyday of young activism.

Suriyasai says one day at the height of the confrontation between the yellow and red shirts, he walked into a hotel coffeeshop and stumbled upon a group of red-shirt leaders enjoying a break. Veera Muksikapong was there. Jatuporn was also there.

“I greeted “elder brothers” Veera and Tu, (Jatuporn’s nickname), and we sat down for a friendly chat. I am sure that those who walked past us would have been very surprised at how we could sit down together,” Suriyasai recalled on the show.

In other words, both former student activists and now political provocateurs par excellence were telling the rest of the country that they had shared the same ideology as young students and that they were in fact fighting for the same cause that, for lack of a more appropriate term, is called “democracy”.

They both agreed that whatever their differences over political issues, they would avoid pitting, at all cost, their respective “mobs” against one another.

Why then did they part ways and become such arch-rivals?

Suriyasai said at one point that his message to the Yingluck government (“I hope Jatuporn will become a minister soon”) was that if it continued to concentrate on helping Thaksin Shinawatra, then it wouldn’t last. The premier would have to make sure that it fulfills its election promises.”

Jatuporn responded by insisting that the government is devoted to living up to its election pledges by promoting democracy, creating equality and economic welfare. Then, he added: “As far as Thaksin is concerned, whatever the government does won’t give him any treatment that isn’t enjoyed by the rest of the country’s 64 million Thais.”

It suddenly dawned on me that the two former student activists who had once fought alongside each other were in agreement on every major issue of the day.

Thaksin was the only reason that put them in two different camps, which have ravaged the country’s calm and peaceful political transition from military dictatorship to popular democracy.

Some yellow shirts reacted negatively to Surayasai for cosying up to Jatuporn, whom they consider their arch-enemy who cannot be forgiven.

Not surprisingly, some hardcore yellow shirts accused the former PAD coordinator of having “sold out”. Jatuporn said some red-shirts had criticised him for shaking hands with Suriyasai as well, but “I got less of it than he,” he said.

But logic and good sense, of course, should inform them that they owe it to the country to bury the hatchet by removing the source of the damaging conflict and renewing their youthful idealism and clear thinking to embark on a road together again to draw up a plan that will put the country back on a “normal” track again.

That is the least the former student activists, riding the crest of whipped-up public sentiments to shoot to national fame and attention, can do to return to their original purpose of activism of the student days: let no self-interest and political patronage cloud your determination to fight for democracy.

Hopefully, it’s still not too late.

Suthichai Yoon

The Nation

 

There is not a single country in the entire world where there are not many politicians who seek office simply to enrich themselves and make a grab for power to serve their own ends. Unfortunately, it goes with the territory. Thankfully, in most western countries – but by no means all – the ‘wrong-uns’ are usually in a minority and the democratic systems tend to weed out most of the bad apples over time.

What I believe is fair to say about Thai politics, is that the ’wrong-uns’ are by far and away in the majority, and all major parties are jam packed with powerful figures  who are using politics to enrich themselves and to exercise power for their own ends. This is a fact of life, and most educated Thais understand this very well.

 

So whether we are looking at Thaksin or Chalerm, or Suthep or Banharn Silpa-archa, or Chavalit, or whoever, we are looking at deeply corrupt politicians with an enormous amount of power and everyone, except maybe some of the badly educated working class, has known it for decades.

Even the working classes understand much of this, but the ‘patronage system’ in Thailand is alive and well and they will vote for the politician who they believe will look after them and their families better than anyone else, regardless of whether they are corrupt or not. Everyone and everything is corrupt! What’s new?

 

I happen to believe that Abhisit was not corrupt in the traditional sense and probably neither is Yingluck. It seems to me, that quite apart from the fact that they have no real financial need to be corrupt, they have also shown by their actions and personalities that they simply do not fit into that familiar ‘corrupt mould’.

If I am correct, it is quite ironic that in a country which is riddled with corruption, they have elected two consecutive leaders who are pretty clean.

But there are degrees of ‘being clean’ and there is no doubt that Abhisit, during his period in office, had to do to all manner of ‘deals with the Devil’ to stay in power, and it is even more obvious that poor Miss Yingluck is obliged to compromise her principles at the behest of her mighty elder brother.

 

But maybe it is a start – a move in the right direction – to have relatively clean leaders who  are admittedly required to dirty their hands to remain in office, but who knows, maybe over time, they can also start to wash some of the dirt of the hands of those around them.

One thing is for sure – it has never been more difficult for politicians to engage in overt corrupt practices. Once upon a time, it was pretty much an open secret that they were busy lining their own pockets, but these days, there are too many opponents who are wise to potential corruption and ready to expose and jump on perpetrators at the first signs that something may be going on.

As far as us ‘holier than though’ westerners are concerned, we only have to go back to Victorian times in the UK to find the existence of ‘rotten boroughs’ and many politicians effectively buying their seats in parliament; or look at the endemic corruption in American politics that grew up, largely as a result of Prohibition; so rather than deplore and overly criticise the corruption in Thai politics, maybe we should be thankful that at least there is a relatively stable democracy, however imperfect, and maybe, just maybe, over time it will slowly get better.

 

That day might come a bit sooner if a certain ex Montenegrin would just put the interests of his country first for a change and call time on his fanatical crusade to regain power.

 

BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…I Don’t give a hoot…


 

 

Carousing, Post-bagging, and Flooding.


9 months, 26 Days, still sober

Mobi-Babble

It seems like a lifetime ago since I quit the booze and weaned myself off the high dosage of antidepressants that I used to take. So I have been clean of alcohol for nearly 10 months and antidepressants for 8 months. In the general scheme of these things, it’s not that long and nobody knows better than me that I am still not out of the woods.

Recently, there have been some worrying financial issues that have sent me into a mild depression, although at the time of writing, I do feel a bit better than I did even a day or so back.

Don’t get me wrong, the ‘financial issues’ are not going to bankrupt me, but without  going into details, I will just say that if not resolved, they will burn yet another small  hole in my projected monthly income and I will eventually have to adjust my lifestyle accordingly.

All in all, a bit of a blow, and largely of my own making, harking from the days when I didn’t take proper care of my money matters. Let that be a lesson to any procrastinating alcoholics out there. Closing your eyes to necessary business matters doesn’t make them go away.

Anyway, the depression has led me to feel a degree of boredom and lack of purpose in my life, (or maybe it’s the other way round), but at no point have I even considered the notion of having a drink or going back on anti-depressants. I actually recognise the danger signals. It is a known fact that many alcoholics return to drinking after weeks, months or even years of abstinence, purely and simply because they are bored and seem to have no happiness or joy in their lives. The solution is not to start drinking again but to find more purpose in my life.

I am not so much bored as dissatisfied with my daily life. I seem to spend all my time downloading stuff from the internet to watch in the evenings, dealing with all my myriad emails and working on my blog, even though I have now reduced its publication to twice a week. I have made no progress on my novel since I had that first rush of optimism following my return from the UK, so now, what with the problems in my finances, I don’t feel too positive about things as I did just a couple of weeks ago.

Things would be a whole lot worse without the wonderful Noo to take care of me and I am so thankful that she is here to stop me doing anything stupid.

Anyway, yesterday I decided to go out on a bit of a ‘girlie crawl’ in the hope that it might cheer me up a bit, and I am actually pleased to report that I think it did just that.

In recent months, most of my carousing has been done in the company of Rick, and more recently Bob, but I have now concluded that I am happier when on my own. If I am on the hunt for female companionship, then I’d rather do it alone. Having someone with me is distracting and invariably I have to fall in with their wishes as regards when and where to move on to pastures new. We may be at a particular bar where  I may have found a nice lady that I wish to spend time with, but my companion may have not be so lucky. So he wants to go and I want to say. And vice versa….

But at the end of the day when I go out on these lady-hunting expeditions, Iwant to spend time with some lovely, scantily clad women – not to chat with friends. If I want to out for a chat I will go to a beer bar or a cafe  and have a chat. If I want to have a nice kiss and cuddle, I will go to a different sort of place and indulge my weaknesses. I have always been like this; a loner as far as chasing whores is concerned.

So yesterday went pretty well. I had a pretty good time in a number of disreputable establishments and had fun with some very horny, gorgeous ladies whose bodies were so delectable that most of you living in the west would die to get your hands on one of them if you had half a chance.

I didn’t ‘go all the way’ but I wasn’t far off it, and more than one lady suggested that  even if I hadn’t, she had….

I won’t go into the gory details as I used to in the past, as it seems to bring out the worst in a number of my readers and they tend to get beside themselves with anger – accusing me of all manner of terrible sins – from distorting the truth to barefaced lies, to challenging me to going with them on some kind of whore-monger competition.

What tosh! I know what I know and I do what I do, which is a helluva lot more than most punters succeed in doing, but I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. If you don’t believe me, it’s entirely up to you.

Did yesterday’s exploits have the effect of lifting my depression? I actually think that they did; I suppose it was all good for my bruised ego. I returned home at around 8.30 p.m and Noo was waiting for me patiently. She looked absolutely lovely and it made me realise, yet again, what a gem she is.

Today, I feel much better, though still haven’t decided what I need to do to change my life for the better to avoid more depressive periods. But at least I am still sober and feeling more positive about things and that can’t be bad.

Postbag

It’s been quite a while since I published a postbag, mainly because there has been little of interest in the way of comments to bring to my readers’ attention.

Obviously everybody must agree with what I say, and has no need to write any comments. ☺ (I’ joking…)

Anyway, I recently had an exchange of correspondence with ‘Rebel’ and  today with ‘TT’. and a new correspondent called Elijah Green. Both Rebel and TT are two of my long term readers, and as  many of you do not bother to click on the ‘comments’ section, I publish below a  recent exchanges of views.

Rebel

Submitted on 2011/10/20 at 4:26 pm

Much better interpretation of the current political condition here in the U.S.A. than some of your previous commentaries. The bottom line is that money regardless of the source has polluted our system, it is the agenda of nearly every politician. In order to keep their positions and for many a higher standard of living then they’d otherwise have accomplished their votes are for sale.

The dumbing of America is no accident, it is by design. It is much easier to herd an ignorant population regardless if they lean left or right. It is the independent vote that is the unknown and decides elections currently. Their numbers will be curtailed as we become less sophisticated and fall in line with the undereducated. We then can be counted to choose left or right instead of compromise thus their votes easier calculated. It is easier to conduct business as usual when the population is struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. The current “Moral Majority” on the right and the “Nanny State” on the left only assist the politicians by masking their dysfunction to compromise in the best interest of the people. What use to be an accepted difference in opinion is now a make or break issue on nearly any legislative attempt by either party. A point of view based on a political/religious philosophy is more important than solving the economic problems now infecting the world. Our politicians have failed to lead and will continue to do so until their pockets are separated from the corporate or special interest cash that controls them and ultimately all of us!

Money is said to be the root of all evil, never a truer saying than evidenced by today’s problems regarding child abuse as your blog stated. It is the children who pay the price for the failures of humanity. The European model of health and welfare is a more humane system for the masses, yes the cost is enormous but is used as an excuse not to do the humane thing here in the U.S. The children don’t vote so they are not a threat to the current politicians, they are the easiest of targets when it comes to how money is going to be allocated. We will and are paying a higher price for our failure to protect, provide and properly educate the most vulnerable of society. It is now less expensive to send a kid to most Universities than to incarcerate them per annum, yet we can’t build prisons fast enough. A system that values wealth greater than its humanity will someday be consumed by the very inhumanity and stupidity that their greed has created.

The current state of affairs in the U.S.A. is troubling; I can only hope that someday a true leader will arrive on the scene, that will save us from our apathy. If you’ve watched any of the resent debates of the republican challengers to Obama, you will have noted none of them are of the calibre to lead our nation to a corrected course. They are all more of the same, all to ready to serve their corporate master$. My prediction is Obama will be re-elected by the slimmest of margins. The crook you know is better than a crook you don’t know, the march to ‘corporatocracy’ continues.

It is much easier to live with ones countries short comings when all you have to do is blame them on someone else or pray them away on any given Sunday. It is much easier to navigate a known corrupt system than one disguised as democracy.

What’s to get Mobi?

MOBI

Submitted on 2011/10/21 at 5:32 am | In reply to Rebel.

Hi Rebel,

Thank you for your comments.

Most, though not all, my articles on USA issues in previous blogs have been deliberately provocative, so I am not surprised that you find my latest comments more ‘reasonable’. In this piece I have tried hard to moderate my language and keep things in proper perspective so as not to antagonise my American readers too much.

What I don’t get is the increasing divergence in cultures between the US and Europe; between the caring and the selfish, between the quasi religious and the secular – between middle ground, consensus politics and partisan, extremist, hate-filled politics….

Of course I am generalising – no nation or group of nations is perfect.

After all, ‘Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.’

I agree with all of your comments and in particular I too deplore the lack of an inspirational candidate to challenge Obama and lead the ‘free world’ at a time of crisis. You may be correct about Obama scraping back in, but much can and probably will happen over the next 12 months.

Personally, I suspect that Romney might just wing it, but this Yankee-watcher will derive no pleasure from such a victory, as Romney is every bit a part of the corrupt political machine as all the others who have gone before. It will more of the same, and the politicians will continue to play the same games in Washington and nothing will really change.

What was that about: “In a democracy, people get the government they deserve”?

Rebel

Submitted on 2011/10/21 at 4:44 pm

Your definition of politics is apropos Mobi.

The divergence you speak of is a result of how superficial America has become, it’s the reason we have lost the status we once enjoyed in the free world. Our morals have been compromised, we are getting the respect or lack thereof that we deserve.

Romney is a Mormon, the Christian ludicrous are not capable of casting that vote for a “cultist”. He is too liberal for that faction of the conservatives. The imbecile Perry is a better fit for those waiting for the return of the invisible man. Huntsman a moderate, who is also Mormon would be my first choice, he’ll never make it through the first few primaries.

Thank you for clarifying my point about not having a government we deserve. The amount of money it takes to buy an election in this country, we get a choice of whoever the financiers decide to support. The population of working stiffs are merely ponds in the chess game for dominance that the wealthy and connected have rigged.

TT

Submitted on 2011/10/25 at 10:34 pm

Hi Mobi,

It is rare that I disagree with anything you say, but your words on Libya there sound like some David Cameron press release. It is us who hired the gunmen to fight the war – errrrr……factions of Al Qaeda if you’d have look at the press. Their massacres are now coming to light as are questions on the amount of civilian casualties created by their habit of standing off from built up areas and blasting away blindly. And the whole UN mandate of protecting the population? Dropping bombs on urban areas would achieve that I am sure.

And the raggle taggle army of ‘freedom fighters’ that you speak of ; Did you note the hardware that these ‘freedom fighters’ were armed with? Wonder who supplied that then? And how is it to be paid for? Hmmm.

And of course the latest footage of Gaddafi’s demise is nothing like the original story, or the next story, or the one after that. He was sodomised with a bayonet after being brutalised. With friends like that do we need enemies?.

Whatever you choose to believe of the propaganda, Libya had women’s rights, it had a good state medical system (Medical tourism being a money earner there), and a good educational system. I have known many guys in the oil industry who’ve worked there so can only base my opinions on what they have told me and of what I have read.

In all reality, can you assure me that our ‘freedom fighter’s will still be allowing women to walk around in Libya unmasked in one year’s time?. I’ve got a fiver says ‘No’.

As for the knock at the door – you do remember what country you live in?. In Libya it might have been political, in Thailand it is normally financial. Same, same, but different.

Cheers,

TT.

MOBI

Submitted on 2011/10/26 at 8:14 am | In reply to TT.

Honestly, TT, it almost sounds as though you have been brain washed by some fringe conspiracy theory hand out.

As I wrote in my piece, I actually lived for a year in Libya, albeit many years ago, but long after Gadhafi was well entrenched as the nation’s feared dictator. I lived there and worked there, never leaving the country until the day I climbed on a plane to leave for good – unlike a vast majority of oilfield workers , who only go into a country to do their tour of duty on an oil rig, and then leave immediately afterwards for their ‘R & R’

As a young man I worked for more than 8 years in the oil industry in all manner of third world countries, but everywhere I worked, I actually lived there, with the local communities, unlike most of my colleagues who were flown out of the country as soon as their tour of duty was over.

It is dangerous to generalise but I have heard more stuff and nonsense perpetrated by often ill-educated oil field hands, clearly ignorant in world affairs and history, who claim that they ‘know’ a country when all that they have done is work on one of the country’s oil rigs. Their only interaction with locals is on the rig and getting to and from their place of work so as a consequence, their views are extremely blinkered, and dare I suggest, somewhat self-serving.

I dare say many feel very aggrieved at having their generous, tax free income being cut off by a ‘pesky civil war’, started by Cameron.

Don’t’ get me wrong – I too do not claim to be an expert; I did state in my blog that  I lived a relatively rarefied, expat lifestyle in Libya.

Oil is the life blood of Libya, and the very best educated, (often overseas), and the most able Libyans work in that sector. Many of them were Gadhafi supporters because they came from that elite segment – mostly from Gadhafi’s own tribe – who were looked after and fostered by the ruling regime.

But even amongst those, there was a fear of saying or doing the wrong thing – and yes – getting a dreaded knock on the door. So any intercourse with such people might lead you to believe that Libya was indeed a well-run civilised society – but the whole world, (except it would seem, the likes of TT), knows very different.

I admit that I am becoming increasingly disaffected with Cameron as I feel his judgement on many issues has been shown to be flawed, but on the Libya issue, he and Sarkosy got it 100% right.

It took longer than most of us would have liked, and there a lot more deaths than any of us are comfortable with. But war is war and the rebels were determined to bring down a very brutal regime and if they hadn’t succeeded, then the slaughter in the streets could well have matched what transpired in Ruanda. Even the UN recognised this as a fact.

Of course, war crimes and unnecessary deaths and torture were carried out by both sides. Name me a war where this didn’t happen.

And quite frankly, I and a vast majority of the world couldn’t care two hoots if Gadhafi’s body was violated with a sabre up his backside – he perpetrated the most barbarous suffering and cruelty on his people and he deserved nothing less. Few will grieve his passing, or the manner of his death.

As for your bet as to whether all the women will be wearing veils in 6 months’ time – well I ask you ? Is this the acid test of what constitutes a fair and just society?

Sure it offends our western senses of what is right and how we should treat our women; but isn’t it time that we abandoned this idea that every country’s culture should be a carbon copy of our flawed western model, and when are we going to learn that any attempts to force our beliefs and principles on alien cultures and religions only leads to conflict?

When the Arab Spring has reached its zenith, there will be any number of Moslem states where the basis of their rule will be Sharia Law and where most, if not all women will have to wear the veil in public. If this is what the people of those countries, voting in free and fair elections desire, then who are we to gainsay them?

Surely all the rest of the world should try to do is to create a climate under which the people have the opportunity to elect their chosen government. As I wrote the other day in relation to The USA: “In a democracy, people get the government they deserve.”

Of course it remains to be seen if such countries will be more democratic than they used to be and if their people are treated any better.

But we have to give them the chance, and maybe – just maybe – we will be surprised by the results.

BTW, please don’t fall into the ‘Big Skippy trap’ of trying to justify your point by bringing another country into the debate. We are talking Libya – not Thailand.

Thailand is a totally different kettle of fish….☺

Take care,

Mobi

Elijah Green

Submitted on 2011/10/24 at 11:27 am

Concur with your thoughts on H.C.

I recall reading a comment about her made by a contemporary university student:

“She was a bitch back then in college, and she ain’t changed a bit”

MOBI

Submitted on 2011/10/26 at 9:26 am | In reply to Elijah Green.

Hi Elijah,

Yes, I’m afraid she has never come across as the caring liberal that she purports to be. Even as Foreign Secretary she has given out some public announcements to which have been tantamount to barefaced lies, and she knows it. Most of us did as well.

It is an interesting dichotomy, as, I actually believe that Obama, deep down, is a principled individual who really believes that what he is trying to do is best for the American people. Unfortunately, his ideology is fatally flawed and on top of that he has shown himself to be an incompetent leader. A great orator and a great ideas man, maybe, but hopeless in leading and in the execution of his ideas.

On the other hand, Princess Hilary is a lying, scheming, wily politician, and who knows – quite possibly an effective leader. Maybe she would have achieved more than Obama if she had been elected President? What say you?

The Thai Floods

There has been so much written about the Thai floods that there is little that I wish to add, and in any case the situation is continually changing so anything that I write will be out of date before the ink dries on the page.

I guess the only remaining imponderable is just how much of Bangkok will also succumb to the floods in the coming days and weeks. My guess is that most, if not all of Bangkok will suffer from some degree of flooding, even if it is only a few inches.

So what is really going on and is anyone to blame? Could the worst of the flooding have been prevented, and is the government completely incompetent in dealing with it? Are bi-partisan politics getting in the way of helping the people?

The possible answers to all these questions can be found in the newspapers and blogs that have churned out millions of words on this subject.

But to me, it is a bit like the Bangkok riots of last year? We are in uncharted territory and no one really knows exactly why it happened, whether timely remedial measures would have helped to alleviate the crisis and where it will all lead to.

One thing is for sure; it will have a considerable effect on the country’s economy. Last year, most people were surprised at how little the economy was affected by the Bangkok riots. The reality was that the great power houses of the Thai economy – industry and agriculture were hardly affected by what was going on in down-town Bangkok.

Sure the tourist industry suffered a small blip – but it was only a blip and it didn’t take long before the tourists started to return in droves.

But this time it is a bit different. Hundreds of major factories have been shut down for weeks,– possibly months; agriculture has been very hard hit and billions upon  billions of Baht in precious exports has been lost, some of it possibly forever.

After the 2009 riots, most foreign investors in the Thai economy, principally Japanese, reaffirmed their commitment to the country, but I wonder whether this commitment will stay just as firm after these devastating floods which have cost the Japanese their largest ever overseas investment loss in their history, some 50 billion dollars was a recent estimate. Maybe some of them will start to look for alternative places for on-going and future investment, particularly if the Thai government do not take immediate long term measures to prevent a re-occurrence of these widespread floods.

I haven’t yet mentioned tourism which also remained relatively unaffected by the 2009 riots. If Bangkok does become flooded, (I suspect that it will), and, heaven forbid, if there is even a slight disruption to flights at Suvarnabhumi airport, then I fear that it will have an adverse effect on tourist numbers for at least year or two – longer if the floods re-occur.

We have been mercifully spared the floods here in Pattaya, as has the south of Thailand which receives a huge number of tourists, but Chiang Mai has been badly affected, and if Bangkok goes under water, this will create a huge piece of negative publicity for Thai tourism at the event will surely be headlines in the world’s media.

So maybe some hard times lie ahead for Thailand’s economy. Not a total disaster, but it will certainly halt the previously burgeoning economic growth in its tracks. The government will have to tread a very careful path out of the resultant, as yet unquantifiable economic damage.

A couple of days ago, Al Jazeera had a thirty minute segment on the Thai floods, and the three participants were two intellectuals from Thai universities, plus the excellent Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who is based in Singapore.

The abiding message that one could take from this programme was that even the experts did not really have good answers to the questions I posed at the top of this article, but all were agreed that to one extent or another, bi-partisan political forces were at play.

Since then I have found an article written by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, as a guest writer in the Nation. It is worth a reprint here:

Even this national disaster is being used as a political weapon

Such a stupid bitch, she is!

As dim as a buffalo! She’s a bimbo, a brainless Barbie doll. The first female prime minister – who has brought all this bad luck upon the country!

This is what Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is now called and labelled by her upper-class critics.

Much of Thailand has for some time been submerged under floodwaters. Bangkok itself is bracing for raging floods. Soon, the capital could be turned into a giant swimming pool. At the same time, Yingluck is about to drown in the political floods. This is no longer just an issue of natural disaster. It has become a ferocious political game.

The discourse of “stupidity” is being used prevalently and discursively. Yingluck has been made to represent the face of stupidity. The objective is clear – to discredit her and belittle her endeavours to find solutions to the problem.

In employing this discourse to assess Yingluck’s performance, many seem to assume that Thai politics is the realm of the “intelligent”. But if it is so, then why did past leaders also fail to solve the relentless problem of annual floods once and for all?

If Yingluck is to be judged, then perhaps the word “weak” would be better used to measure her leadership qualities. It is true that Yingluck has responded to the floods too slowly. While she works tirelessly to display her commitment, she fails to produce an integrated approach to ameliorate the grave situation. But it is very convenient, in times of crisis, to condemn others. All fingers are thus pointing at Yingluck’s lack of crisis management skills.

But would it be fair to put all the blame on Yingluck? Should she alone be held responsible for the overpowering floods? Why was the Royal Irrigation Department keeping huge reserves of water in key dams at the beginning of the monsoon season and refused to release it despite the prolonged and massive rainfall we have seen during this monsoon season? Why did previous governments, which also experienced threatening floods, not put in place an effective flood management system?

Rumours, lies and false statements regarding the flood situation have been found on social networking sites. A picture of Yingluck, taken before the July election, which shows her taking a photo from her hand-phone on a helicopter, has been circulated on Facebook, with captions such as: “The nation is in crisis but this bitch is having a good time.” Another picture of a Yingluck lookalike partying and drinking whisky from a bottle was also shared in cyberspace.

News of His Majesty the King mentioning that if the floods approach Bangkok, then let the water pass and do not block the Chitralada Palace, was found to be bogus. A photo of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, taken in 2010, offering bags of commodities, was also intentionally released to mislead some Thais.

Could this be a part of a coordinated attack against Yingluck with the aim of destroying confidence in the government? Certainly, the opposition Democrat Party has been busy contesting the legitimacy of the Yingluck regime. Its leader, former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, absurdly suggested the declaration of an emergency decree to fight the floods. Through this, the military would be granted full authority to operate in almost any way it likes – a decision that will not be accepted by the current government. Yet, Abhisit did not elaborate on whether the military could handle the problem better than the Yingluck government.

Abhisit has also worked closely with MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra, the Bangkok governor, to compete, not cooperate, with the government. While many brand Yingluck as stupid, Sukhumbhand showed his superstitious faith in a Khmer ritual of “chasing water” in his search for a solution to the threat of floods in the city. He was intensely protective about his turf. At one point he declared, “Listen to me and only me. I will tell you when to evacuate.”

Meanwhile, footage of the military going into affected areas to aid flood victims is impressive. But the military, like the Bangkok governor, has functioned almost independently from the government. There is clearly a sense of competition between the government and its rivals. Some of the fiercest critics of the government have called for Yingluck to resign. Yingluck’s supporters interpret such competition and the pressure to remove her from power as part of a plot to stage a “water coup”.

This competition, even during the height of the crisis, unveils a reality in Thailand: this is a deeply fragmented society in which political ideologies have overshadowed public responsibility and the urgency for national survival. It is no longer a country where its members are willing to forge ahead and leave their differences behind. Eliminating political adversaries, at the expense of a national catastrophe, is seemingly acceptable today.

The last crusade to save the capital from the floods also reflects a self-interested mentality among Bangkok residents. Bangkok, once again, is a symbol of contentious politics. Other provinces have long suffered from flood-waters that do not seem to go away. It is a case of a great disparity between the people residing in the rural and urban areas.

For now, those who are complaining the most, the loudest, are the Bangkok residents, who have over the past two months been so fortunate to have been kept dry. Yingluck has fallen into the trap of political disparity: she recognises the absolute necessity to rescue Bangkok to please her Bangkok critics, but earlier acted so slowly to prevent surrounding provinces from being inundated.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun

PC is a fellow at Singapore’s Institute of South-East Asian Studies.

2011-10-26

I like to believe that if a similar disaster were to befall the UK, or indeed the USA, that at least during the time of crisis there would be a concerted effort from people of all political persuasions to first and foremost deal with the disaster and get all necessary help to the victims and to mitigate the flood damage.

Once the disaster is over, normal politics would hold sway once more and accusations would be levelled back and forth from all sides of the political spectrum. But at the height of the emergency, all would be doing their best to help and support the government in their efforts. We actually saw this recently in the cyclone and terrible flooding that ravaged Australia. Recriminations came later, but at the time, it was ‘all hands to the pumps’.

Not so Thailand. It is such a shame, and – dare I say it- that if it wasn’t for one man, the strong feelings and the deep divisions in Thai society would never have become quite as entrenched as they are today. 

I am not for one moment suggesting  that he was not treated shabbily – of course he was – but history will show that he has a great deal to answer for; from the terrible, bloody riots, to the polarisation of Thai society to the point where scoring political points is more important than the lives and welfare or ordinary folk.

I am sorry, Khun Thaksin, but two wrongs never, ever, make a right; I’m sure they must teach you that somewhere in Buddhism. In fact, maybe Khun Thaksin and all the many  Buddhists who are involved in managing this crisis, would do well to dwell on the Buddhist concept of ‘METTA’. 

Metta is the first of the four ‘Sublime States’: loving kindness, good-will, friendship, unconditional love for all human beings. Metta is the feeling of warm-hearted concern for the well-being of other people, whoever they may be, regardless of any ‘reason’ or any profit that might result. Metta is a spontaneous expression of a wish to do what one can to help.

BUTT…BUTT…BUTT… I don’t give a hoot…