Friday, February 16, 2007

Deconstructing Thanong Part II


Surayud plays former premier at own game

Ex-Thaksin minister's appointment a gamble for PM, a slap to Pridiyathorn

Prime Minister Gen Surayud Chulanont has made one of his biggest political gambles by appointing Dr Somkid Jatusripitak, an architect of Thai Rak Thai's populist policies, as chairman of an international economic co-ordination committee responsible for promoting the Sufficiency Theory to the international community.

By doing so, Surayud has not only given ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is now living in exile, a hard time, but has also put MR Pridiyathorn Devaku-la, the deputy prime minister and finance minister, in a very difficult and embarrassing situation.

Somkid is a former number two Thai Rak Thai man and Thaksin's economic tsar. He is also a sworn political enemy of Pridiyathorn.

Surayud is taking on Thaksin at the former prime minister's own game. Nobody is in a better position to discredit Thaksinomics than Somkid, once seen as a potential successor to Thaksin if Thaksin were to step down.

Surayud's appointment of Somkid to this seemingly ceremonious post is his second bold political decision following his earlier decision to sack Police chief Kowit Wattana over his failure to investigate the Bangkok bombings on New Year's Eve.

By bringing in Somkid, Surayud is signaling that he is ready to welcome any supporters of the Thaksin regime who are willing to cross the line.

The process to dismantle the remnants of the Thaksin regime is about to begin in earnest.

Thaksin, ousted from office by the September 19 coup, has tried to keep his political hopes alive by hiring lobbying and public relations firms to attack the sufficiency theory as the root of the Thai economic fatigue. Without naming names, Dr Kasem Wattanachai, a member of the Privy Council, earlier said somebody had hired the foreign media to write bad things about the sufficiency theory, which advocates moderation and self-immunity.

Thanong is a shameless liar. Neither Thaksin nor any of the firms Thaksin hired have attacked sufficiency theory or have said that it is at the source of the Thailand's economic problems.

Thaksin's PR blitz from overseas has also incurred the wrath of the military leadership and the Surayud government, which is trying to promote His Majesty the King's sufficiency theory as part of economic development. At the same time, Thaksin claims credit for his Thaksinomics of populism and unfettered free trade and liberalisation as instrumental to Thai economic growth over the six years of his reign.

First, what exactly has the Surayud government done to implement any kind of sufficiency theory? Opening two airports? Isn't that wasteful? Unnecessarily expanding the defense budget? Paying off generals for supporting the coup? Expand the budget? Free health care? Continuing Thaksin's most popular policies?

And Thanong doesn't get that socialist populist programs are antithetical to unfettered capitalism.

To complicate matters, several foreign critics, who have an appetite for unfettered free trade and liberalisation, are blaming the Surayud government for mismanaging the economy, arguing that it is trying to promote the sufficiency theory to divert attention from its mistakes.

Why doesn't Thanong have the courage to name names? Who are these critics? Outside one poorly written Economist article, I have yet to see anybody attacking sufficiency theory or "praise" the neo-liberal aspects of Thaksinomics.

Somkid yesterday delivered a speech to the Sasin Graduate School of Business Administration, outlining sufficiency economy as an integral part of Thailand's economic development. He was defending his record that he had been a supporter of the sufficiency theory all along through his policy to promote savings or gratitude tax.

Somkid is a two faced liar, backstabbing hypocrite who deserves to be indicted along with Thaksin. Funny how Thanong embraces Thaksin's ideological master, Somkid, instead of asking why he isn't being indicted.

If Somkid really agrees to take on Thaksinomics, he would not only part with his own legacy, but will also stage a rebirth out of the dark shadow of Thaksin. He has tried unsuccessfully in the past to remove the yoke of his political master.

Somkid has not been spared the political wounds from his Thai Rak Thai association. He is being implicated in the illegal approval of the on-line lottery, the controversial rubber-sampling scheme, and the airport link project. By crossing the party line to the other side, he could escape the backlash of legal proceedings.

Thanong even admits Somkid's alleged criminal background. Why so in love?

A source close to Pridiyathorn said several people who have sympathy with him have suggested he resign from office after the surprise appointment of Somkid, which amounted to a snub to him.

Pridiyathorn is already feeling bitter about the rise of his arch enemy, Sondhi Limthongkul, the media tycoon. With support from Gen Saprang Kalyanamitr, a key member of the National Security Council, Sondhi has now gained access to TV Channel 11's prime time to air his "Yam Phao Phan Ding" programme.

Sonthi's media outlets have been fiercely attacking Pridiyathorn since the time he served as Bank of Thailand governor. Back then, Pridiyathorn locked horns with both Sondhi and Somkid, then finance minister, over the Krung Thai Bank affair. Both Sondhi and Somkid supported the presidency of Viroj Nualkhair, but Pridiyathorn wanted Viroj out over the loan scandals at the bank.

The incident has since driven Pridiyathorn and the Sondhi/Somkid camp apart to the point of no return.

Thanong, of course, leaves out all the details of this story.

You can find out the details about this story at Wikipedia here.

The short version. Sondhi used to have a major media empire. Somkid worked for Sondhi. After the 1997 crisis, Sondhi went bankrupt. Viroj was Sondhi's banker at Krung Thai Bank and wrote off Sondhi's debts. Krung Thai Bank went under with bad loans. Pridiyathorn and Thaksin fired Viroj. After this incident, plus Thaksin cancelling his TV program, Sondhi starts his relentless attacks against Thaksin.

By cutting a deal with Somkid, the prime minister may be ready to sacrifice Pridiyathorn any time to salvage his administration. Pridiyathorn has been blamed for spoiling the investment and business climate with the introduction of the capital control measures to curb baht speculation and the draft amendment of the Foreign Business Act, which have spooked foreign investors.

But the source said Pridiyathorn has a high opinion of Surayud and that he has pledged to fulfil all of his responsibilities for the prime minister.

Thanong Khanthong

The Nation

Why does Thanong have such love for Somkid, the mastermind behind Thaksinomics, policies that Thanong has derided time and time again.

I wonder if Thanong backs a Sondhi/Somkid version of suffciency theory which promotes borrowing billions of Baht to finance an overextended business empire, and then when things go bust have your banker buddies write off the loans, then let the Thai taxpayers foot the bill.

Read about the Sondhi/Somkid/Viroj/Pridiyathorn connection here.

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