LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Sonthi's Army shuffle may keep political crisis from boiling over into a coup
Re: "Sonthi stuns by shifting PM's allies", News, July 20.
As the old saying goes, there is no smoke without fire. Indeed, there have been plenty of signs of smoke recently since the revelation of caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's "Dear George" letter and his outburst, during which he claimed that a "charismatic figure" with "reserved power above the Constitution" was plotting to overthrow his government.
These actions have led to increasing tensions that have poisoned Thailand's already fragile and volatile political atmosphere, so much so that an option that was once unthinkable is now being considered to break the political impasse. A coup d'etat is being discussed openly in several quarters and cannot be taken lightly by anyone any longer.
In Thailand today, cracks appear everywhere. Within the ruling Thai Rak Thai Party; within the bureaucracy, which is about to undergo a changing of the guard; among the military factions close to commanding generals of the Class 10, pre-cadet school who claim to be His Majesty the King's soldiers. Even the courts are not spared. Ura Wang-ormklang, who reportedly has close ties to the Shinawatra family, did not attend the working lunch of presidents of the three judicial branches on Tuesday, after he was appointed president of the Constitution Court a week ago.
But all of the above cannot compare with the fact that former Premier and Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda, who usually keeps things pretty much to himself and generally stays neutral in most political situations, has spoken up. That he wore his combat uniform on two recent occasions speaks volumes.
The lightning transfer of field commanders in key, strategic positions in and around Bangkok carried out by the First Army Region and approved by Army Commander-in-Chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin is a courageous act that may well save the nation from entering yet another period of turbulence.
His Majesty's soldiers have done their job well, as far as anyone can see. The transfer will take the lid off the boiling pot; and while of course someone may have been hurt, the nation is not. But His Majesty's soldiers cannot do their job alone; they must be augmented by all of us who are stakeholders in our nation's destiny. The threat is not completely removed. We, the people, must continue to be vigilant. If His Majesty's soldiers are on the side of His Majesty's people, then His Majesty's Constitution and government will not perish from this land we love.
'Ordinary Israelis' oppose generals' actions in Lebanon
Re: "Explaining Israel's actions in Lebanon", Opinion, July 16.
Ambassador Yael Rubenstein directed a special appeal to the people of Thailand: "Israel expects Thai support in its struggle against terrorism, because it is also Thailand's own struggle. The forces of Islamist extremism have struck in the southern provinces and elsewhere throughout the region. As the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel shares common values with Thailand, particularly our respect for freedom and human rights."
Reasonable Thais may find her statement bordering on the bizarre.
Can you imagine Thailand imitating Israel's violence by bombing northern Malaysia indiscriminately, or closing down the airport in Kuala Lumpur because it is an alleged "conduit" for arms to militants in southern Thailand? Certainly not.
On the contrary, most Thais will agree that the carnage in Lebanon and the continuing open murder of Palestinians in Gaza show an utter disregard for "human rights".
Meanwhile, ever more ordinary Israelis are dismayed by the adventurism of their generals and the utter inability of the government to protect its own citizens.
Many young Israelis in particular are bewildered by the shocking images of the devastation and slaughter [the Israeli] army is once again inflicting with incredible intensity on innocent civilians in both Lebanon and occupied Gaza. They know a couple of captured soldiers is not what this huge operation is about.
How many more will have to die before justice for all of us, Israeli and Palestinian, can prevail?
No winner can emerge from cycle of violence in Mideast
As the Middle East crisis escalates, the attempts on these pages to defend the countries involved all miss out one critical undeniable point: there can be no gain for anyone in the continuous cycle of vengeance.
No matter how militarily powerful Israel may be or how angered and hard done by the Palestinians are, they are both on the road to nowhere.
The kidnapping of Israeli soldiers has evaporated as a reason for the attacks, and mutual wanton revenge now seems to be the only aim of all parties.
I wonder why the majority of peace-loving citizens in these countries cannot make a stand to halt the madness.
There is certainly no winning post. As one Palestinian on the street succinctly put it: "We'll go to hell together!"
PM just showing he has high placed friends with Bush letter
Several of your readers have commented on Thaksin's letter to President George W Bush, all underlining different aspects. One writer commented that the leak might reflect a "deep throat" syndrome in Thailand ("Leak of Bush letter may point to 'deep throat' syndrome", Letters, July 15). I do not subscribe to this view.
The contents of the letter were only about the current political impasse and contained no classified information of any kind, nor other secrets, and since the whole world knows about Thailand's current political impasse, there is no need for a "deep throat" to come to the fore in Thailand.
Another writer thought the person who "leaked" the letter should be arrested and prosecuted for disclosing the contents of a private letter ("People who leaked Thaksin's letters should be punished", Letters, July 17).
There is some merit in that - the letter was private, of course, and that was the point of it, but it contained no private material as such, since its content was already well in the public domain; thus, prosecution does not apply in this case. Besides, it would seem the two letters were not leaked in a mischievous way.
Thaksin and his advisers are well aware of the fact that the whole world knows about Thailand's current political crisis and that there would be no need to inform Bush personally about it.
The only purpose this letter could serve would be to enhance Thaksin's status among Thais as a whole, to the effect that the caretaker PM is a personal friend of the president of the United States.
Caretaker PM Thaksin likely wanted to show he was a man with powerful connections, that a man with such allies is a valuable Thai politician, who can "swing" things on the world stage for Thailand's benefit and that he should not be discarded lightly if at all.
Thus the letter is or was nothing more than party political campaigning, to raise and enhance the status of a party leader in readiness for the next general election. Nothing wrong with that. Besides, in love, in war and in politics, all is fair.
Article misreported Japan's rush to get FTA signed early
Re: "Thaksin may sign Japan FTA", Business, July 11.
Petchanet Pratruangkrai should make more of an effort to do better research and quote more reliable sources the next time she reports on the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (Jtepa) and not simply rely on "a member of the Thai negotiating team" and "a Commerce Ministry official" who did not want to reveal their real identities when they provided misleading information on Jtepa.
The truth is Tokyo has never pushed the Thai government to sign Jtepa in September of this year. Rather, it has shown an understanding of our domestic situation and will only sign the agreement when we are ready to do so. Although much effort has already gone into consultations with lawmakers and key stakeholders over the past four years, I believe Jtepa should be signed after proper consultations with the new Parliament.
As for the so-called "Commerce Ministry official" who argued the agreement would not create concrete benefits for Thailand, I find it difficult to believe that this person actually works in the Commerce Ministry. My able colleagues from the ministry have always played a significant part on our Jtepa negotiation team.
We all know that how much Thailand benefits from Jtepa will depend on how well the relevant officials actually understand the agreement, as well as their ability to help the private sector, farmers and other groups take full advantage of the opportunities it creates.
Coming from various departments in the ministry, these colleagues, along with others in several other ministries, negotiated long and hard and in the end did an outstanding job in creating opportunities in various areas, particularly in trade in goods, trade in services and intellectual property. Small and medium-sized enterprises and exporters, especially in the food, jewellery, textile and garment industries, certainly stand to benefit from this agreement when it enters into force.
My gratitude also goes, in particular, to my colleagues in the Customs Department and two rules-of-origin experts from the private sector who have helped ensure that our final negotiations on rules of origin under Jtepa do indeed provide better market access for most agricultural products of interest to Thailand.
For more details, please visit our Jtepa website at www.mfa.go.th/jtepa.
Chief Jtepa negotiator for Thailand