Likelihood of more arrests shrugged off

Wichayan Boonchote

Another group of protesters said to be facing charges in connection with the Thai-Malaysian gas pipeline riot yesterday shrugged off the prospect of arrest, saying they did nothing wrong.

Sulaiman Matyusoh said no one was worried about being arrested and they would not surrender to face police charges.

“We won't run away. But we won't turn ourselves in either because we've done nothing wrong. We'll wait for them,” he said.

Mr Sulaiman said the villagers would be waiting at Lan Hoi Siap where activities to educate the young about the scheme would be organised on Children's Day, Saturday.

Banchong Nasae, who was arrested during the riot along with 11 others, said the arrests were part of a plan to demoralise the protesters.

But he said the authorities were wrong to think that such moves would discourage the opponents.

“Even if they decide to arrest all of us, the villagers won't give up the fight. The authorities are making a big mistake,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pol Col Khamronwit Thoopkrajang, deputy chief of Songkhla police, said the court has already approved warrants for the arrest of 17 protesters.

He expected no further arrests.


PM wants gates dispute decided on show of hands
NGO says Thaksin betrayed his promise

Yuwadee Tunyasiri

Children of villagers opposed to the closing of sluice gates at Pak Moon dam display banners yesterday attacking Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. A number of protesters held a rally outside Government House to demand the gates be opened permanently. _ APICHART JINAKUL

Opponents of Pak Moon dam are unhappy with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's call for a popular vote on whether to open the dam's sluice gates.

Paolo Khamsawat, an opponent, said Mr Thaksin had promised to make a decision after hearing from local people.

However, Mr Thaksin now wanted the dam's fate decided on a show of hands.

He had asked local leaders and the district chief to call a meeting where local people would vote on the matter.

Those leaders were state officials, not representatives of local people, said Mr Paolo. Some 300 dam opponents yesterday gathered near the Makkhawanrangsan bridge opposite the Education Ministry on Ratchadamnern Nok to criticise the government's move.

Sompong Wiangchan, from the Assembly of the Poor, said district authorities had opposed opening the sluice gates and criticised the assembly for backing residents.

Asking district authorities and local leaders who supported the closing the gates to organise a “free vote ” among residents was a cynical step.

Some opponents staged a drama in which Mr Thaksin pretended to seek the views of local people. Earlier, Mr Thaksin set up a study team to look at the dam's fate, after declaring that a university study commissioned by cabinet was incomplete. No word was to hand on its fate or when Mr Thaksin wants the vote to be held.

Pak Mool Dam foes stage lie-in to get a 'final answer'

Published on Jan 4, 2003

The Assembly of the Poor yesterday morning had 100 Pak Mool Dam protesters lie down on the road outside Government House for more than two hours in a bid to get a "final answer" from Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra about the controversial structure's opening.

Thaksin promised the dam's opponents at year's end he would soon give them the definitive answer they are demanding as to whether the dam's sluice gates would remain open year-long, affecting fisheries and human habitats upstream.

The premier now says his own government's commissioned study on the project has proved "unreliable".

The protesters, led by Somkiat Phonphai and Sompong Wiangjan, lay down around a fountain at the foot of the Makkawan Rangsan Bridge, next to Government House, at about 10am yesterday.

"The prime minister doesn't like pressure," said Somkiat. "He told villagers to wait, so they will wait and fight on peacefully."

But Thaksin should keep his promise, Somkiat said. He should make a decision by the end of this week and should let protesters participate in his decision-making process.

Somkiat demanded that the premier clarify his comment that a government-commissioned study on the dam's potential effects, conducted by academics at Ubon Ratchathani University, was "not comprehensive".

"We wonder why the government cannot make a decision based on information from the study," he said. "If he doesn't clarify this, it will show he lacks moral integrity. It's not difficult to give us some clarification. If he doesn't have the time, he can do it in writing."

Somkiat said the protesters would keep pressuring Thaksin for a "final answer".

The survey was commissioned by the government, stressed Somparn Khuendee, a consultant to the Assembly of the Poor, and it is thus obliged to explain to the public why it did not accept the study results. "Otherwise the Bt10 million spent on the research was in vain," said Somparn.

Government representative Phumtham Vejayachai, also deputy secretary-general to the ruling Thai Rak Thai Party, said the government was compiling information related to the controversy.

The government will not base its decision on information and recommendations from a single study, he said, but on a range of research. He said he expected the government to be able to finalise its decision by the end of next month.

"The prime minister doesn't accept the study by Ubon Ratchathani University because the research team failed to make its research reliable. They changed the study results every time they presented them," he claimed.

Warin Trino



Another backlash against academics

Published on Jan 9, 2003

Thirayuth Boonmi's candid analysis of Thailand's political, social, economic and cultural developments since the 1997 economic crisis was well argued and well publicised. Although there is little that Thirayuth has to say that has not been said before by other commentators on different occasions, his comprehensive analysis, which encompasses all key aspects of national life, offers rare insights because it succeeds in putting various interlocking issues into perspective.

Thanks to his keen sense of timing, Thirayuth's analysis, launched at a press conference last Sunday, was widely reported in the mass media. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's predictable, angry reaction against Thirayuth's take on the state of Thai politics ensured that his analysis will be read by many more who wouldn't otherwise tuck into such an academic work.

Apparently, Thirayuth's intention to stimulate a lively public debate on important issues facing Thai society through his frank and controversial remarks was lost on the prime minister and the people around him. Most people took Thirayuth's analysis with a grain of salt: one may agree with some of his arguments and reject others.

One of the surest signs of a sophisticated leadership in a democratic society is the ability of political leaders to take criticism without losing their cool. It would be better still if they are able to articulate ideas and participate actively in the public discourse in a rational way.

By taking it personally and lashing out against each and every critic, the prime minister may be exposing his perceived character - egocentric and narrow-minded - as exactly what it is that makes many people so critical.

What's more, it does not serve the government's best interest in terms of public image to see a democratically-elected administration with an unprecedented public mandate go on the defensive every time someone makes critical comments about its performance.

In his analysis, Thirayuth acknowledges Thaksin's almost absolute control over politics and the state bureaucracy but warns that such political domination is a double-edged sword.

A student leader in the 1973 popular uprising that brought down the authoritarian Thanom-Prapass regime, Thirayuth says that unless Thaksin wields his enormous political power in a responsible manner, the country could be plunged into an economic and social collapse.

The academic says Thaksin was able to use his unprecedented power to initiate and push through a drastic bureaucratic reform, which should contribute significantly to sustainable economic recovery and social progress. But he also expresses concern about the prime minister's autocratic style of leadership and populist policies involving huge public spending to stimulate economic recovery.

He also echoes what many political scientists and other commentators have pointed out when he states that the government has become less accountable to the public because the checks-and-balances mechanisms - such as the Senate, the Election Commission and the National Counter Corruption Commission - have been all but paralysed by heavy-handed interference from the powers-that-be.

The prime minister and his Cabinet have heard all these criticisms before, as have members of the general public. To see the prime minister and people in his inner circle consistently react with vehemence against - and disdain for - critics, one can't help but wonder why this government with an unprecedented public mandate carries itself with such a disproportionate lack of confidence.

Repeated criticisms of the government's performance do not, by themselves, make the government's supposed misbehaviour or mistakes true. But the government's utter failure to handle criticism does suggest that something is amiss behind the facade of political strength.

Prasittiporn KAN-ONSRI [NOI]
Assembly of the Poor. THAILAND.
99, 3 Floor Nakorn Sawan Rd.
Pomprab Bangkok Thailand. 10100.
T:F; 662 2811916 , 2812595, Mo 09-9273556
E-mail : : CC,,

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