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Letter from Thailand: September 15, 2008 – Samak Withdraws, Somchai New Candidate for PM

Samak Sundarajev withdraws as prime minister candidate


Dear Reader,

Sawatdee kha from Thailand.

Well, the political saga in Bangkok continues. Last Friday, September 12th, 2008, the Thai parliament was supposed to choose a new candidate for Prime Minister. The country was geared up for Samak Sundaravej, the ousted Prime Minister, to be re-nominated by his party the PPP (People’s Power Party) as this is what they said they would do. However, Friday rolled around but the vote never happened. Why, you might ask? Because, in typical Thai fashion, where direct confrontation is a no-no, more than half of the Parliament didn’t show up to vote.

This told everyone in Thailand that Samak would not be nominated because, by no-showing, the Members of Parliament were saying they didn’t want to vote for him. (They didn’t want to vote against him either as that’s not polite in Thailand – so it’s better just not to come and thus save face for everyone). And my Thai students wonder why I keep trying to teach them the phrase “Grow some balls”.

Samak then quietly withdrew from being considered and, it was finally announced late today, that the new candidate for Prime Minister of Thailand will probably be acting Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat.

Now you’ve got to laugh at this choice. He might be a good politician (I don’t know anything about the guy, so couldn’t tell you) but, The People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) have spent the last month trying to get Samak kicked out of office because he was “too close to ex-Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra”. The new guy is Thaksin’s brother-in-law. You can’t get much closer than that now, can you? Unless, of course, they chose Thaksin’s wife.

But….there are two other candidates that are still being considered and different factions in the ruling party like them for different reasons. The vote is supposed to go ahead on Wednesday but, knowing the government here, that might be delayed too. After all, you wouldn’t want to cause someone to lose face, would you?

I’m loving Thai politics right now though. It’s such a mess it’s actually becoming funny, and don’t even get me started on the hilarity of the PAD. The People’s Alliance for Democracy are just as angry with the choice of Somchai Wongsawat as a possible Prime Minister and are vowing to continue their demonstrations. Don’t these people have jobs or companies to run? Surely they’ve better things to do with their time?

But, stayed tuned. Just like the weather in Thailand, the political situation will probably change in an hour or so and it might be even more fun then.

Speaking of the weather, it’s horrendous. It rains every day at least twice and, usually, pours down right at 5pm when everyone is going home. This makes the awful Bangkok traffic jams even worse and sometimes doubles the time it takes me to get home. I wouldn’t recommend anyone come to Thailand in September. It really is absolutely disgusting weather and not the tropical paradise you would expect.

Oh, and Cambodia is now getting annoyed with Thailand. Thailand is still fussing and moaning over the Preah Vihear temple being said to be owned by Cambodia and having been given UNESCO World Heritage status over the objections of Thailand. Because of this, the Thai military also keeps illegally crossing the border into Cambodia and occupying Cambodian land that it shouldn’t be occupying. Cambodia is now going to complain to international bodies and mediators to try to get some support.

Honestly, why can’t Thailand just give it up? Preah Vihear is a little temple in the middle of nowhere. Let Cambodia have it if it means that much to them. Doesn’t Thailand have bigger problems?

Ah well, Thailand may be more developed than 30 years ago, but it still has a third-world mentality in many respects and it will probably be another generation before this changes.

Have a great week, and keep watching the news for more exciting Thai political news. I know I am.

Sawatdee kha from Bangkok, Thailand.

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