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Compulsive loquaciousness: Thai junta PM goes off script at media gala dinner

Originally published at Siam Voices on April 30, 2015 Thailand's Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha's keynote speech at gala dinner in front of international media representatives is yet another example of the junta leader's unpredictable talkativeness, while his understanding of the media differs greatly from the international audience he was talking to.

Since seizing power almost a year ago, it appears that General Prayuth Chan-ocha is tirelessly working on something. Ever since the military coup of May 22, 2014, his authoritarian regime has micro-managed almost every aspect of Thai politics and more often than not also even beyond - and we're not even talking about the numerous detainments, media censorship, rampant online surveillance or the recent expansions of the junta's nigh-absolute powers. From the lottery system to World Cup television broadcasts to Songkran etiquette, the military junta seems to be eager to influence almost every aspect of everyday life in Thailand.

Junta leader and prime minister Gen. Prayuth himself is mostly at the forefront of these actions and doesn't seem to be tired of talking about it, especially on his weekly TV address. Every Friday evening he reaches out to the nation via television to speak on average almost for an hour about his government's progress, achievements, future plans and whatever else is on his mind, mostly in a furiously fast-paced, relentlessly off-the-cuff manner (so much so that the English subtitles hardly keep up with him). These tirades are usually delivered in a patronizing "I can't believe I have to spell it out to you" tone.

This kind of rhetoric is only exacerbated under live conditions, for example at his daily press conferences, where he constantly displays his contempt towards reporters and the media by being borderline sardonically abusive, either verbally or physically. However, the biggest verbal escalation was in March where he, visibly annoyed by the barrage of questions, quipped about "executing" critical journalists.

With that in mind, let's turn our attention to Wednesday evening, where Gen. Prayuth, in his function as prime minister, was invited to be the headline speaker at the gala dinner of "Publish Asia 2015", a regional summit for the newspaper industry. Given what we know about Prayuth's fiery no-holds-barred rhetoric, the international audience was in for quite a ride...

It seems that the problems were just getting started here...

But that didn't deter junta leader Gen. Prayuth from staying on topic - or rather straying off topic...

On his weekly TV address and the apparently low viewership, he said:

And just when you thought it was over...

But the translators were not the only apparent 'casualties' of that evening...

Back to Prayuth himself, he then finally realized what audience he was talking to:

This remark is particularly interesting because "Peace TV", the satellite TV channel of the anti-junta red shirt movement has been permanently taken off the air by the authorities for "politically divisive" coverage that could "incite unrest".

And ending on a high note...

There's not much else to add here, other than: this is one of the rare times where Gen. Prayuth's compulsive loquaciousness has been exposed to an international audience, who got a taste of his singularly unique trail of thoughts. Some might argue that his speech might have missed its target audience, but it's not everyday that you get the wisdom of Uncle Knows Best - except for the Thai people that have been under his thumb for almost a year now.

P.S.: If you dare, here's the full video of Gen. Prayuth's speech sans translator.

Tongue-Thai’ed!: Democrats' Surin and Godwin's law, again!

Originally published at Siam Voices on November 8, 2013 This is part XXIII of “Tongue-Thai’ed!”, an ongoing series where we collect the most baffling, amusing, confusing, outrageous and appalling quotes from Thai politicians and other public figures. Check out all past entries here.

With the anti-amnesty bill protests in full swing all week long in the capital Bangkok, the opposition Democrat Party have stepped up their game apparently also their rhetorics - but not necessarily to new heights.

Nearly all senior party members have come out to rile up the crowd led by former deputy prime minister Suthep Thuagsuban, a regular on this section. But today's “Tongue-Thai’ed!” comes from somebody else in the Democrat Party: Surin Pitsuwan is a seasoned politician with a lot of experience, especially in foreign affairs. No wonder, he was deputy foreign minister and just until recently secretary-general of ASEAN, as he came back from Jakarta to Bangkok back into the fold of his party earlier this year. Since then, he was mostly in the background but now also took to the stage of the rally at Thammasat University to show his opposition to the flawed broad amnesty bill.

Apart from saying the usual á la "Thais should stand up and reclaim their honor" and being more concrete along the lines of "This government is unacceptable for the ASEAN stage". However, there was another one that stood out while referring to an article by the Council of Foreign Relations that says the ruling Pheu Thai Party is "operating like an elected dictatorship". Here's what Noch Hautavanija (the assistant to the recently resigned party deputy Korn Chatikavanij) tweeted:

Translation: "Hitler also came [to power] through elections and it was a dictatorship" Mr. Surin

Here we go again! After Suthep and former foreign minister Kasit, we have yet another senior figure of the Democrat Party invoking Godwin's Law when talking about the government of Thaksin Shinawatra and its associated successors and unfortunately it seems to be one of the more level-headed figures in the party. Seriously, is it now a requirement in the party to draw a Hitler comparison whenever speaking about the political rivals?

For the last time, here's why the argument the Hitler-came-to-power-through-elections-so-democracy-is-bad is just wrong:

Hitler never had more than 37 percent of the popular vote in the honest elections that occurred before he became Chancellor. (…) Unfortunately, its otherwise sound constitution contained a few fatal flaws. The German leaders also had a weak devotion to democracy, and some were actively plotting to overthrow it. Hitler furthermore enjoyed an almost unbroken string of luck in coming to power. He benefited greatly from the Great Depression, the half-senility of the president, the incompetence of his opposition, and the appearance of an unnecessary back room deal just as the Nazis were starting to lose popular appeal and votes. (source)

Sounds familiar? You can criticize the current (and the past Thaksin governments) for being arrogant (especially with the current push on the blanket amnesty bill), or even politically overbearing - but to compare it to one of the darkest periods in German history and also being factually wrong at that is not only unworthy of the name the party is bearing, but also of the international standing Surin has.

Thailand: 2 years after the May 19 crackdown - some personal (and very short) thoughts

Originally published at Siam Voices on May 21, 2012 On Saturday, thousands of red shirts gathered at Ratchaprasong Intersection in Bangkok to commemorate the second anniversary of the violent crackdown against the anti-government protests on May 19, 2010 by the military. Ninety-one people have lost their lives and thousands were wounded in the clashes - protesters, soldiers, civilians and journalists (notably Fabio Polenghi) are among the casualties. In the past two years there has been hardly any justice and impunity still prevails.

There seems to be a growing discontent among some red shirts over the people they initially supported. Key issues such as lèse majesté have still seen no action from the government of Yingluck Shinawatra. Many see this as a promise from the government in exchange for a shaky détente with the military that allows it to stay in power. Yingluck's brother, the exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, made his regular phone-in to his supporters on Saturday, asking the crowd to put aside calls for solving social inequalities and injustice for the sake (yet again) for national reconciliation - potentially alienating the progressive, pro-democracy wing of the red shirt movement.

In contrast to 2010 and 2011, I have decided not to write a long column on the state of the nation. However, I tweeted a few concise thoughts on Saturday that have gained some response and I thought they would be worth sharing here:

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist currently based in Hamburg, Germany. He can be followed on Twitter @Saksith and on Facebook here.

No #outrage as Thailand adopts Twitter’s censorship policy

Originally published at Siam Voices on January 31, 2012

Last week, the micro-blogging website Twitter announced an implementation that gives them the possibility to withhold certain tweets to be viewable from certain countries, if legally required to do so. The backlash was expected and came in swiftly with countless of users express their #outrage. While some see an actual improvement in Twitter's new policy as they make the process transparent in contrast to previously just deleting the offending tweeting.

Of course many are fearing that this move will enable governments to curtail freedom of speech by requesting Twitter to blank out unwanted tweets that is going against a sovereign narrative and thus rendering campaigns of minority voices on the social media service, that has been often attributed to be a vital tool in the Arab Spring, ineffective.

One of these countries is of course Thailand, where freedom of speech has been steadily on the decline over the past few years and recents months have seen an intense and emotional debate of the Kingdom's ambiguous, but yet draconian lèse majesté law. While groups demanding a reform or the complete removal of Article 112 of the Criminal Code are battling with hardcore royalists and other opportunists, who are of course still upholding the notion that the royal institution needs to be protected above all else, the government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra are maintaining their past stance and denying any move to amend the law whatsoever.

On Monday the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), in order not to be outdone by anyone, has come to endorse Twitter's new policy:

ICT permanent secretary Jeerawan Boonperm said Twitter's move to censor or block content regarded as offensive in particular countries was a "welcome development".

The ICT Ministry will contact Twitter shortly to discuss ways in which they could collaborate, she said.

Mrs Jeerawan added the ICT already receives "good cooperation" from companies such as Google and Facebook in ensuring that Thai laws are respected.

"ICT to lay down law on Twitter accounts", Bangkok Post, January 30, 2012  via TheNextWeb

Just in case you have missed it: Thailand is the FIRST government on this Earth to embrace Twitter's new censorship policy! They have even beaten the Chinese, who of course made their own spin on this! This of course has drawn in the attention of the international media, as it also inevitably draws attention to the lèse majesté laws, which is slowly becoming synonymous for the Southeast Asian country.

What this whole controversy also shows is that Twitter, while a significant web service in today's internet culture, is still a private corporation that is there to make a profit and expand in foreign markets, such as China. It is a ride on a razor's edge between financial interests and the interests of it's users - something that other web companies like Google and Yahoo have attempted by appeasing to the local laws and eventually damaging their reputation in the end.

In the case of Thailand, Twitter is yet another frontline in the seemingly never-ending battle for freedom of expression online against a force that is curtailing the diversity of views and opinions in order to protect their sole, valid sovereign narrative of a Kingdom that is getting into world's spotlight more and more for all the wrong reasons.

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist currently based in Hamburg, Germany. He can be followed on Twitter @Saksith and also on his public Facebook page here.

2011 - Some Personal Thoughts

Originally published at Siam Voices on December 31, 2011 2011 is history and looking back on Thailand this past year, it has been yet another eventful year that brought some answers, but many more questions to the wide-spread problems that continues to plague the country in many aspects. However, 2011 brought many chances and changes, shed light on issues and topics left in the dark before, voices echoed by many and opinions uttered by a few, whether you agree with them or not.

This is a (definitely incomplete) list of these stories that happened in 2011...

Lèse majesté sees December surge

Let's start off with the most recent topic that has unfortunately brought Thailand into the world headlines for all the wrong reasons again and that is none other than the problematic issue of lèse majesté that is gripping freedom of speech. The whole month of December was filled with stories about high-profile cases and countless victims of this draconian law, the discussion to amend it and the (irrational) defenders of this law and the institution that is meant to be protected by it.

The recent surge of lèse majesté began in late November with the dubious sentence against Ampon "Uncle SMS" Tangnoppakul, despite doubtful evidence. The 62-year old grandfather is now being jailed for 20 years, five years for each alleged SMS sent. On December 8 the Thai-born US citizen was  sentenced to two and a half years prison for posting translated parts of a banned biography on the King. On December 15 'Da Torpedo', despite winning an appeal resulting in a restart of her trial, was punished to 15 years prison for alleged remarks made in 2008. These are just a few cases that happened in November and December compared to the countless other (partly ongoing or pending) cases over the past 12 months.

But the surge was also accompanied with growing and publicly displayed concern by the European Union, the United Nations and the United States Embassy in Bangkok over the increasing blatant usage of the lèse majesté law, only with the latter to be flooded with irrational, angry hate speeches and also the venue for a protest by royalists in mid-December (and also in a nearly instant iconic display of royal foolishness, the protesters are wearing Guy Fawkes masks, most likely inspired by the #Occupy-movement, but totally oblivious to its historical roots). It was not the first time this year that this issue got attention from the international community, as seen in October.

The government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was elected into office last July (see below), and while she would have liked to see some change on the application of the law, not to the law itself though, the new ICT minister has vowed to exploit this to the fullest. He was only to be topped by deputy prime minister Chalerm Yubamrung a few months later, who went into full combat mode and declared war on lèse majesté web content with a THB400m ($12,6m) strong war chest, right after a meeting with the military's top brasses. The hopes of many supporters of the Pheu Thai Party, especially the red shirts, are at latest by now fully gone, as this government already has a tainted record on this issue.

But there was also an important protest by opponents of lèse majesté - the "Fearlessness Walk" shows that this issue can no longer be ignored and the consequences of its enforcement are doing exactly the opposite of what it is supposed to do. It is drawing attention to the ambiguous nature of Article 112 of the criminal code (as well as the Computer Crimes Act), it is drawing attention to the signs of changing times and those who refuse to see them, and ultimately it will draw more opposition - we will (unfortunately) hear more about this issue in 2012!

(Non-)Culture: Baring the unbearable and monopolizing "Thai"-ness

While we're on the subject on being subjected to the anachronistic ideas of a few, there were several stories in 2011 in the realms of culture that were disconcerting, to say the least. It wasn't so much the incidents themselves rather the reactions by those self-proclaimed cultural heralds of everything "Thai"-ness - a phrase I've been using too often in each of those stories: three girls dancing topless on Songkran, the then-culture minister calls for a crackdown on them as if they have attacked everything "Thai"-ness stands for. A few months later the same culture minister suddenly notices that infidels foreigners are getting Buddhist tattoos and calls for a ban (and back paddles after some considerable uproar). Shortly after his ministry senselessly attempts to crack down on a senseless internet meme because it's "inappropriate" and "not constructive". Later this year a rather curious guide for parents was published on their website. And finally a singer's rather raunchy video gets a ton of hits online and a sanctimonious scolding on national TV.

See a pattern here? The selective outcry borders on ridiculousness and fuels Thailand’s National Knee-Jerk Outrage Machine (“กลไกสร้างปฏิกิริยาอย่างไร้ความยั้งคิดแห่งประเทศไทย”, trademark pending), claims to uphold the only valid definition of "Thai"-ness, that isn't even fully spelled out yet, while they have not noticed that the world beyond their minds has moved on and come up with new and different definitions of what else Thailand could be. The problem is that these cultural heralds, by political office or class, claim monopoly on this. Everyone below their wage level is not entitled to even think about it. And if something doesn't fit their point of view, as guest contributor Kaewmala put it brilliantly, "Only taboo when it's inconvenient!"

The 2011 General Elections

Will he or will he not? In the end, Abhisit Vejjajiva did dissolve parliament and paved the way for early elections in May and also set off quite a short campaign season, which not only saw a few strange election posters and illustrious characters running for office, but it also saw the emergence of Yingluck Shinawatra as the lucky draw for PM candidate of the opposition Pheu Thai Party. After much skyping to Dubai discussion within the party, the sister of Thaksin was chosen to run and it turned out to be the best pick.

The Democrat Party were banking heavily on negative campaigning (a precursor to the upcoming, inevitable Thaksin-phobia in 2012), which reached its climax in the last days with their rally at Rajaprasong, the same venue where the red shirts protested a year ago. In this event, then-deputy prime minister Suthep Thuangsuban claimed to give the "full truth" on what really happened during the violent crackdown of May 19, 2010. What followed were hours of fear-mongering in case of a Pheu Thai win and an incident that almost caused a major misunderstanding:

The big screens flanking the stage on the left and the right are bearing a gruesome view. Footage of at times badly injured people from last year’s rally are being shown when suddenly at the sight of blood people started cheering – as it turns out, not for the brutally killed victims of the anti-governments protests of 2010, but for a woman with an Abhisit cut-out mask waving to the crowd behind her.

"Thailand’s Democrat Party rally: Reclaiming (the truth about) Rajaprasong", Siam Voices, June 24, 2011

The last days of the campaign were spent outside of Bangkok, for example Pheu Thai in Nakhon Ratchasima before the big day. On Sunday, July 3, election day of course meant a full-day-marathon for a journalist. Not only did it mean covering as many polling stations around town as humanly possible, not only to crunch the numbers of exit polls (which turned out to be total BS!), but also of course running the live-blog at Siam Voices. In the end, it went very quickly: Abhisit conceded, Yingluck smiled and at a lunch meeting later there was already a new five-party coalition.

The worst floods in decades: a deluge of irrationality

790.

This is the current death toll of the what has been described as the "worst floods in decades". Floods are an annual occurrence in Thailand during the rainy season. When the water was sweeping through Chiang Mai already back in late September, this natural disaster was somehow going to be different. But it took some considerable time, despite the unprecedented damage it has created in Ayutthaya to the ancient temples and the vital industrial parks, until the capital was drowned in fear of what was to come.

It was curious to observe that those who were least likely to be affected (read: central Bangkok) were losing their nerves the most. Back in November I attempted to explore one possible reason:

One of the real reasons why the people of the city react the way they did though is this: After a military coup, countless violent political protests and sieges of airports, government buildings and public roads, this city has a sense of anxiety not unlike New York after the 9/11 terrorist attacks: a sense of being constantly under siege by something or somebody that separates Bangkok from the rest of the country even more. An incident at Klong Sam Wa Sluice Gate (we reported) is a perfect example of the conflict between inside and outside Bangkok in miniature form.

"The Thai floods and the geographics of perception – Part 2: Certain fear of uncertainty", Siam Voices, November 23, 2011

On an anecdotal note I remember people around me hoarding bottled water, moving their belongings upstairs and barricading their houses waist-high - while I can understand these precautions, I was astonished to say the least when I started to read social media updates that accuse the government so much so to the point of deliberately drowning the people of Bangkok and other outlandish conspiracy theories, including the now ubiquitous "blame it on foreign media"-card.

There's no doubt that this natural disaster has not only shown the worst in people, but also it's helpful and charitable side (not only towards humans exclusively). During my work reporting from the floods for foreign news crews (hence there weren't many posts on Siam Voices), I admired the apparent resilience and defiance I saw from many victims of the floods - some of which are now struggling with rebuilding their lost existence. And a lot of clean-up will be needed to be done, both literally as well as politically, in order to prevent such a disaster from happening again!

What else happened in 2011? (in no particular order)

- Then-prime minister Abhisit urging then-president of Egypt Honsi Mubarak to respect the will of the people - while being totally oblivious that he exactly did not do that a year ago because, well, "They ran into the bullets" themselves!

- Half a dozen Thais walking through the border region with Cambodia and surprised that they're being arrested, in an arbitrary way to dispute the border demarcations between the two countries. This ongoing conflict, largely fueled by the ever-shrinking PAD, sparked into a brief armed battle. Two of the strollers are still sitting in a Cambodian prison.

- The one-year-anniversary of the crackdown of May 19 and my personal thoughts on this.

- The somehow strangely toned-down five-year-anniversary of the 2006 coup.

- Army chef General Prayuth Chan-ocha going completely berserk at the press.

- The fact that Thailand got its first female prime minister and the (un)surprisingly muted reactions by Thailand's feminists.

- The saga of the impounded Thai plane on German ground, the curious case study on how Thai media reported it, the juristic mud-slinging, and how this mess was eventually solved. Which brings us to...

- The German government allowing Thaksin back into Germany, after heavy campaigning by a bunch of conservative German MPs. Still boggles my mind...!

- And while we're on topic, we are saying good-bye to a regular contributor of outrageous quotes - no one has been so focused to do a different job than written his business card than Thaksin-hunter and former foreign minister in disguise Kasit Piromya!

I'd like to thank my colleagues at Siam Voices for building a diverse and opinionated collective, our editor who keeps everything in check and YOU, the readers! THANK YOU for the support, feedback, criticism, links and retweets!

Here's to an eventful, exciting 2012 that brings us news, changes, developments to discuss for all the right reasons! Happy New Year!

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist based in Hamburg, Germany again (*sigh*). He can be followed on Twitter @Saksith and now also on his public Facebook page here.

Video: 'Challenging the Sovereign Narrative' - (Social) Media in the Thai Political Crisis

Originally published at Siam Voices on December 23, 2011 (Note: This post was supposed to be up much, much earlier but was pushed back due to the floods and the re-relocation of the author back to Germany. Apologies to all involved for the momentous delay!)

Back in late September I was invited to hold a talk at Payap University in Chiang Mai and I chose to talk about a (social) media topic with the focus on the the 2010 anti-government Red Shirts' Protests, the knee-jerk demonizing of foreign media and what role social media played in this, if at all.

The talk is about 45 minutes long and includes 15 minutes of Q&A. The original full abstract can be found below the video.

Again, thanks to the people at Payap University for the invitation and organizing the event, especially Adam Dedman, Jessica Loh and Paul Chambers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzrtubI8cZM

Challenging the Sovereign Narrative – Media Perceptions of the Thai Political Crisis and the (missing) Role of Social Media”

Speaker: Saksith Saiyasombut

When: Tuesday, 27 September 2011, 5-6pm

Place: Room 317, Pentecost Building, Mae Khao main campus, Payap University

The Kingdom of Thailand rarely pops up on the global news landscape and if so, then it is mostly for a so-called ‘soft’ story. In recent years though, political struggles, often escalating in violent protests on the streets of Bangkok, have dominated the airwaves of the international media outlets, only to disappear shortly after the protests have ended. With the Thai political crisis dragging on for several years now, reporters are struggling to properly report and explain the situation without simplifying this to just a color-coded conflict between two opposing groups. In particular, the anti-government Red Shirt protests of 2010 were a watershed moment for how Thailand and its political crisis are regarded, with many Thais objecting to the foreign media’s coverage, as much as to openly vilify the international TV news networks. On the other hand, the domestic media have failed in its role to objectively explain and provide context to the political developments of recent years.

The more important issue is the rise of social media to counter a sovereign narrative of the mainstream and state media – however, Thailand has yet to see a grassroots revolution fueled by the Internet. Nevertheless, online services like Twitter and Facebook provide Thais a way to read and express alternative viewpoints and also a platform to  fill the journalistic void left by other media outlets, but are threatened by the country’s ambiguously written Computer Crimes Act and lèse majesté law.

This talk looks at the perceptions of the international and domestic media of the Thai political crisis and why this struggle has not translated into an online uprising yet and aims to examine opportunities for “filling in the blanks” left by the mainstream media.

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai political blogger and journalist. He wrote for his hometown newspapers Weser Kurier and Weser Report in Bremen, Germany, before working as an editorial assistant for Asia News Network and contributing reporter at The Nation. He started blogging about Thai politics on his personal website  www.saiyasombut.com in early 2010 and since September 2010, Saksith now writes for Siam Voices, a collaborative blog on Thai current affairs on the regional blog and news network Asian Correspondent. He is also currently a graduate student of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Hamburg, Germany.

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist currently based in Hamburg, Germany. He can be followed on Twitter @Saksith and also on his public Facebook page here.

Tongue-Thai’ed! Part IX: The 'Cib that Frabs' - Dems target PM Yingluck's gaffes

Originally published at Siam Voices on October 5, 2011 “Tongue-Thai’ed!” encapsulates the most baffling, amusing, confusing, outrageous and appalling quotes from Thai politicians and other public figures – in short: everything we hear that makes us go “Huh?!”. Check out all past entries here.

Last Sunday the Twitter account of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was 'hacked' - or rather somebody knows the password already or has guessed it correctly, which isn't necessarily 'hacking'.

There is a German saying that goes, "Who has the damage, doesn't need to provide for the ridicule". And to add injury to insult,  Miss Chitpas Bhirombhakdi, the daughter of the executive vice-president of Singha Corporation, thus often-referred to as the “Singha-heiress” and now deputy spokeswoman for the now opposition Democrat Party (read about her debut here), has tweeted on Monday morning:

สื่อของ ยิ่งลักษณ์ นับวันจะถูกบีบให้เหลือน้อยลง สัมภาษณ์สดก็ไม่ได้ ออกทีวีก็ไม่เป็น ออกวิทยุก็พูดผิด ทวิตเตอร์ก็ถูกปิด ทีมงานเหนื่อย!

Yingluck's media outlets are dwindling by the days - she doesn't give live interviews, doesn 't do TV, mixes things up on [her] radio [show], now [her] Twitter [account] got closed! Her staff's exhausted!

Tweet by @TANTchitpas on October 3, 2011 at 08:41:48 , translation by me

This is the latest in a string of mocks and roasts against Yingluck and her government ever since the Democrat Party was booted out. Here's just a selection of attacks by the Democrat Party. Astonishingly and strangely enough, in a The Nation article on Yingluck's Twitter mishaps the editors somehow sneaked in a whole paragraph with something that has nothing to do with the actual story:

Yingluck also came under criticism from Democrat spokesman Chavanont Intarakolmalyasut for mispronouncing ya faek (vetiver grass) as ya praek (pesty grass). "Even when the prime minister was reading a script, she read it wrong," he said.

She should apologise for her slip-up during her weekly radio address, he said, adding that he did not think it would be funny if 15.7 million Pheu Thai supporters decided to grow weeds instead of vetiver grass for flood prevention.

Democrat MP Watchara Phetthong said Yingluck had made too many gaffes lately. Her misleading remarks about the Navy's submarine procurement request came just last week, followed by the inability to distinguish between the grass to prevent soil erosion and the weed, he said.

"Hacker of PM's twitter account 'identified'", The Nation, October 4, 2011

Before that several Democrat MPs have called the either Yingluck or her government a "puppet PM", being "obessed with helping Thaksin" and one even her a "ninja" - all that only just happened last September!

But the cake takes the aforementioned Watchara Petchthong who said this after Yingluck's radio slip-up:

"ผมถือได้ว่ารัฐบาลชุดนี้หลอกลวงพี่น้องประชาชน น่าจะเรียกได้ว่าเป็นรัฐบาล “แปตอหลู” และผมยืนยันว่าจะเรียกรัฐบาลว่าอย่างนี้ (...)"

"I say that this government has fooled the people, so you can say this government is a "cib that frabs" and I insist to [continue] call this government [like this] (...)"

"ส.ส.ปชป.ให้ฉายา'แปตอหลู' จี้นายกฯขอโทษพูดผิด", Thai Rath, October 2, 2011

Now, in order to understand what Watchara has called this government, we have to explain what "cib that frabs" or in original "แปตอหลู" (pronounced bae-dtoh-loo) actually means: If you want say something indirectly in Thai, people like to swap out letters that results in total gibberish. But if you put it into the right order, you would get "ปูตอแหล" (pronounced "pou-dtoh-lae"). ปู ("Pou") is Yingluck's nickname, while "ตอแหล" ("dtoh-lae") means to lie or to fib, though this word is only used for women. All in all then we would get the "crab that fibs" - which is a rather convoluted way to say that this government is lying.

While it is important that an opposition keeps the government in check and gives a nudge here and there when the occasion arises, it is interesting, if not revealing, to see how they criticize and for what and also what they actually say.

Just because we have a new government, it doesn’t mean they all suddenly stop saying stupid things. If you come across any verbosities that you think might fit in here send us an email at siamvoices [at] gmail.com or tweet us @siamvoices.

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist currently based in Bangkok, Thailand. He can be followed on Twitter @Saksith and now also on his public Facebook page here.

Thai PM Yingluck's Twitter account hacked

Originally published at Siam Voices on October 2, 2011 The Twitter account of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (@PouYingluck) has apparently been taken over by hackers on Sunday morning between 10.22am and 10.43am, and sent out tweets which were critical of the government and its policies. So far, there have been eight such tweets:

This country is a business. We serve our own, not the Thai people. We do this for those who support/sponsor us, not those who disagree with us.

Where are the chances for the poor people? We have have exploited the poor, gave them hope only for their votes so that our group can benefit from it.

Where is the sustainability? Solving the flood problems isn't just looking good for the pictures but a collective effort of those with knowledge to find a long-term solution.

Is it time already that our country changes for the better, not just for looking good for the pictures in order to capitalize for their own corporations, relatives and the others who benefit.

The most important thing for this country is education. Why are they handing out tablet [PCs] but not fixing the curriculum or support the teachers by paying [them] more?

Why are [we] fixated by mega projects [such as] the mass landfill, building the world's tallest buildings, which doesn't have to do anything with this country.

Thailand needs change! It's time that everybody in this country wakes up! The stupidity must end!

If she cannot protect her own Twitter account, how can this country be protected then? Think about it...

At this time nothing is known about the people behind these messages other than the fact that the last word in the last tweet is the politeness-particle ครับ ("khrap"), which exposes the hacker to be male. At the time of publishing the tweets are still there, but according to TAN Network, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology has been "informed and is investigating".

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist currently based in Bangkok, Thailand. He can be followed on Twitter @Saksith and now also on his public Facebook page here.

Announcing: Talk at Payap University on September 27, 2011

This is an open event, anyone is invited to come and you can RSVP on the Facebook event page. Also, you have any suggestions and hints for material, links, videos etc. send me an email, tweet or post on my Facebook page.

"Challenging the Sovereign Narrative - Media Perceptions of the Thai Political Crisis and the (missing) Role of Social Media"

Speaker: Saksith Saiyasombut

When: Tuesday, 27 September 2011, 5-6pm

Place: Room 317, Pentecost Building, Mae Khao main campus, Payap University

The Kingdom of Thailand rarely pops up on the global news landscape and if so, then it is mostly for a so-called ‘soft’ story. In recent years though, political struggles, often escalating in violent protests on the streets of Bangkok, have dominated the airwaves of the international media outlets, only to disappear shortly after the protests have ended. With the Thai political crisis dragging on for several years now, reporters are struggling to properly report and explain the situation without simplifying this to just a color-coded conflict between two opposing groups. In particular, the anti-government Red Shirt protests of 2010 were a watershed moment for how Thailand and its political crisis are regarded, with many Thais objecting to the foreign media's coverage, as much as to openly vilify the international TV news networks. On the other hand, the domestic media have failed in its role to objectively explain and provide context to the political developments of recent years.

The more important issue is the rise of social media to counter a sovereign narrative of the mainstream and state media - however, Thailand has yet to see a grassroots revolution fueled by the Internet. Nevertheless, online services like Twitter and Facebook provide Thais a way to read and express alternative viewpoints and also a platform to  fill the journalistic void left by other media outlets, but are threatened by the country’s ambiguously written Computer Crimes Act and lèse majesté law.

This talk looks at the perceptions of the international and domestic media of the Thai political crisis and why this struggle has not translated into an online uprising yet and aims to examine opportunities for "filling in the blanks" left by the mainstream media.

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai political blogger and journalist. He wrote for his hometown newspapers Weser Kurier and Weser Report in Bremen, Germany, before working as an editorial assistant for Asia News Network and contributing reporter at The Nation. He started blogging about Thai politics on his personal website  www.saiyasombut.com in early 2010 and since September 2010, Saksith now writes for Siam Voices, a collaborative blog on Thai current affairs on the regional blog and news network Asian Correspondent. He is also currently a graduate student of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Hamburg, Germany.

Tongue-Thai'ed! Part IV: Korbsak and the red menace

Originally published at Siam Voices on May 24, 2011 "Tongue-Thai'ed!" is the new segment on Siam Voices, where we encapsulate the most baffling, amusing, confusing, outrageous and appalling quotes from Thai politicians and other public figures - in short: everything we hear that makes us go "Huh?!". Check out all past entries here.

Korbsak Sabhavasu, former secretary-general of the PM, now main campaign strategist for Democrat Party has recently tweeted this:

RT @ThanongK: RT @korbsak: We have survived the end of the world. >U mean July 3rd?>depends on who win, the reds or Thailand

Tweet by Korbsak Sabhavasu (@korbsak) on May 23, 2011 - 00:55:17

Alright, a lot of things to untwine in these 140 characters: First, was the original tweet by Korbsak referring to the failed doomsday prediction by an American Christian radio host. Second, was the reply by our most beloved 'columnist'/twitter preacher Thanong Khanthong, who asked if the actual doomsday would occur on July 3, the date of the Thai elections.

And last, the verbal coup de tête, comes from Korbsak again who hints that doomsday "depends on who win, the reds or Thailand?" Apparently, he thinks that Thailand will descend into a biblical chaos if the opposition Pheu Thai Party wins and the red shirts take over the Kingdom, because (in his view it looks like) they stand for everything that is not this country and will turn it upside down!

That begs the question though: What is Thailand? And what is Thailand for Korbsak?

UPDATE

Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay has at the Democrat Party HQ today and also asked Korbsak about that tweet. The response: He's just having a joke! Erm, yes...just a joke...!

A lot of stupid things will be said during the election campaign in the coming months. If you come across any verbosities that you think might fit in here send us an email at siamvoices [at] gmail.com or tweet us @siamvoices.