We will do it the old-fashioned way _ I'll keep updating this space and you keep refreshing your page. I have both twitter and facebook accounts but for now will let Thaksin Shinawatra boom ahead using the two social network channels. He announced the twitter and facebook plans on Friday and it caused quite a stir in our newsroom. Good old Thaksin. Catch him if you can.
Preamble: Michael, I know you are resting in peace, but if by any chance talks about your memorial service being overhyped have annoyed you, point your critics toward Thailand. Rub it in their faces by asking "Have I ever held a birthday party like that you sorry nitpickers?"
If this whole intro makes me sound like a big nitpicker myself, sorry. It's true that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva launched his hi-5 account a few years ago and I didn't say a word. And there are the likes of President Obama when twitter is concerned. But trying to organise a birthday party of the century and promoting it this way three months after our close shave with a bloodbath? I guess we have the right to be a bit sceptical and anxious.
It is believed that Thaksin will use the occassion to repaint himself as a peaceful man now ready to forgive and forget. That's the only strategy left apparently, after the Songkran turmoil damaged his pretty fine image overseas. He became a tainted good, and a shrewd businessman like him always knows what to do with a tainted good. You don't throw it away. Just add a few new features and relaunch it.
Merit-making events will take place nationwide barring the South. What message he will convey to his supporters and how he will convey it have been a subject of speculation, thanks to his close aides' claims that there will be a "big surprise".
Rumours that he would appear in the form of a hologram have been dismissed but still persisted. We expect some kind of video footages of him making merits in Dubai to be shown one way or another to his supporters to make them feel he is "there" with them.
Events will take place in about a dozen provinces, starting in the morning. Focus will be on the Kaewfah Temple in Nonthaburi, the Uthai-tharam Temple on the Rama IX Road and a public venue in Roi-et. And just because the whole thing is about relaunching a political product doesn't mean it won't be superstitious. Religious ceremonies, according to news reports, include using a holy knife to "cut" or remove karma from Thaksin. I must have been a bad Buddhist because this is the first time I know we can do that.
So, a rumoured hologram and a holy knife will make Sunday quite interesting, if not "exciting" as promised on Thaksin's twitter. My update will start around 10 pm so please stay tuned.
In the meantime, I have compiled some speculations on what the "big surprise" will be. The link is here. http://http://www.nationmultimedia.com/search/read.php?newsid=30108234&keyword=tulsat
Sunday, 10.10 am: Good morning everyone. Red-shirted members have been reported to rise up early in some provinces to give alms to monks. In Nakhon Panom, some 300 people took part in a solemn merit making insisting that they came together because of their love for Thaksin. Some 50,000 Nakhon Panom residents were said to have signed the pardon-Thaksin petition.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, in his weekly TV programme, said it was alright for Thaksin to hold such a large-scale "sae yid". "I guess he just wants to be happy," he said. Nice beginning, but then a little swipe. "If his eyes can see dhamma (Buddhist principles) now", Thaksin should know what to do, Abhisit said.
The prime minister woke up to some unpleasant news. His popularity rating, according to an Abac poll, is now one percentage point below Thaksin's (32.9 per cent against 34. It is quite a drop from March when the prime minister enjoyed more than 50 per cent rating whereas Thaksin's was barely above 20 per cent.
Still no more big news about the "big surprise", except that some of his aides claimed the thing would be so touching it would make you cry. Also, Thaksin is expected to heavily touch upon the government's "failure" in handling the swine flu.
On the superstition front, earth garthered from "all the eight directions" will be used in a ceremony to re-inforce Thaksin's stars. Is this against Buddhist teachings? No problem, a Buddhist monk in the province said, because this was a Brahmin ritual that had nothing to do with what Lord Buddha taught.
11 am: Meanwhile, Guinness World Records officials may have been invited to Chiang Mai because birthday organisers said they planned to break a world record on the number of cakes being brought to a birthday party. They plan to have 2,492 people bring one cake each, but it seems the auspicious number is in danger of being overwhelmed by other enthusiastic supporters who also want to bring their cakes. They want a piece of cake in the cake campaign, so to speak.
Reports are starting to come in from various provinces where Thaksin birthday celebrations are taking place. But morning activities have been mostly the same, with people giving alms to monks and performing basic Buddhist rituals. The Kaewfah Temple, hailed as the centre of celebration venue, has been crowded with red-shirted people.
Meanwhile, speculation that Thaksin would display humbleness as the big surprise has all but evaporated after his phone-in on Saturday. He vowed to come back to restore his reputation and "Thailand's dignity" which he said was destroyed by what happened to him over the past few years.
Thaksin is said to have been very touched by a song written for him, prompting new speculation that he would sing "I'll be back" for his supporters today as the big surprise. This matches the claims that the big surprise would be something so touching that tears will flow.
At a temple in Lampang, a "Ngai Baad" (To put an overturned monk's bowl back up) ceremony has been held. Since to overturn a monk's bowl (Kwam Baad) means to disown or boycott, the purpose of this ceremony is obvious.
12.10 pm: Former Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, who is Thaksin's former brother-in-law, has joined the ceremonies at the Kaewfah Temple, where a "Ngai Baad" ritual has also taken place.
A lot of "Thaksins" are seen at the temple _ people wearing his masks, a human-sized cut-out of his photo, and a coffin bearing his picture. (Coffins are often used in "sadoh kroh" rituals to repel bad fortunes or turn them into good ones.)
Since private cars are not allowed to park inside the temple, red-shirted members have to park outside, causing quite a traffic nighmare around the venue.
More details on the Abac poll, Abhisit remains much more popular than Thaksin in the South and is still more popular in Bangkok. Thaksin, of course, scores big in the north and northeastern region. In his weekly TV programme, Abhisit said he was not worried by "democratic" competition to increase popularity, but he deplored attempts to block government politicians from many pro-Thaksin constituencies.
In Chiang Mai, rituals have taken place in several locations. One highlighted ritual was to "cut" or remove his karma.
3 pm: It's official now, or so it seems. The "big surprise" is Thaksin singing "I'll be back" in a video footage played out to his supporters at the Kaewfah Temple, who sang along.
Not much else happened when I got stuck in the rain and traffic. We have got hold of Thaksin's written birthday wishes. It was a short message written in his own handwriting. "If you ask me what I wish for on my birthday, I'll say I want to see national reconciliation and strong health and longevity for His Majesty the King," it said.
Thaksin is also known have twittered Abhisit, apparently in response to the latter's "If his eyes can see dhamma" statement. "I'd like to say big thanks and give you my full support for solving national problems. If there's anything I can do, I will be really pleased to help."
Well, I have to admit that both messages sound very nice indeed, which leaves us wondering why it still feels so miserable politically.
4 pm: I know many of you are dying to know the song's lyric and translation, so, here they are. (I did a quick translation, so please forgive any mistake). As to who composed it, we only know it was a "very well-known artist".
เธอคือแรงดึง เคยซาบซึ้ง น้ำตาคลอ
One day I will come back as I promised
With faith and unsevered ties
I was forced to acquiese, although I was not ready
I will come back, so, Thai people, please wait for me
There must be a day when I return
You are the inspiration. I was touched, and tears brimmed in my eyes
I will endure all the slanting
Go ahead and step on me
I'll wait for the day the sky changes its colours
I have become a wanderer, sleeping in different places like a criminal
Oh yellow birds, you have your land to live on
You are so different from me.
There must be a day when I return
Please, everyone, wait for the day when a bruised man triumphs
I'll be back to join your forces and your hearts
I'll be back for Thai people and the land
I'll be back to unify
To solve Thai problems and bring back happiness.
4.30 pm: It's quite difficult to keep track of all the religious and superstitious ceremonies that have come thick and fast. One ritual, though, has to be mentioned. At the Kaewfah Temple, a Thaksin portrait had been bound with thorny wintergreen branches, which were later cut off. Wintergreen is ระกำ (Rakam) in Thai and "rakam" means suffering.
A big dinner party is being planned in Lop Buri for red-shirted members in the province and nearby areas. The ousted leader is reportedly scheduled to make a phone-in to the gathering. Will the phone-in provide a relatively sombre day with another highlight? We shall see.
5 pm: While the world of superstition is on fire, the digital one is not as active. Thaksin's twitter, an account named "Thaksinlive", has had just over 2,000 followers so far. He himself follows only "bangkokpundit" and "ingshin".
Just about 2 hours ago, "ingshin" sent him a message. "Happy birthday ka...we are more than happy just to see u smile ka :)" This message came after Thaksin used twitter to thank "Nong Daeng" and "Nong Poo" and asked them not to "abandon" the people.
Five hours ago, Thaksinlive thanked Abhisit and vowed to support him in solving political problems.
Someone told me Thaksin's facebook has had some 2,400 friends. His written birthday wishes have been displayed on "picasa web album" photo sharing site. The message has drawn almost 30 responses since it has been posted early in the afternoon. The feedback is modest but required registration on the site could be the main reason.
5.20 pm: It has been confirmed that Abhisit had twittered Thaksin with a message similar to what he said during his weekly TV programme. Thaksin's twitter reply, it seems obvious now, was in response to Abhisit's twitter text, not what the prime minister said on air.
Abhisit's twitter message said: "On your birthday I think you want to be happy like all others. If your eyes can see dhamma, you will be happier krab."
A news website has already called it a "twitter war", but that's surely overstating it. After all, Thaksin's reply was very polite. The real verbal war, I think, may come this evening.
7 pm: Dinner parties are taking place in various places. Thaksin's phone-in, expected to be broadcast to many venues, is scheduled for 9 pm.
TV footages showed Thaksin's sister Yaowapa Wongsawat weeping when he sang "I'll be back". Her husban, former prime minister Somchai, said the real "big surprise" was not Thaksin singing the song, but the "massive" number of people who came to hear him sing. As events are so scattered and spread out through the day, it's difficult to determine how "massive" the participation in today's ceremonies is.
By the way, as rituals were being performed to enhance Thaksin's stars, Abhisit let his feet do the talking by scoring a hattrick in a friendly soccer match between government officials and foreign envoys. The late-afternoon match betwen "PM's 11" and the diplomats at the Crystal Park Club ended in a 3-3 draw.
9.30 pm: It's official, again, that the "big surprise" is Thaksin's plan to set up "global TV networks" to promote Thai Otop products, broadcast reality shows about Thai poverty and possible solutions, as well as provide education programmes for Thai students. Coming from a former telecom tycoon the plan is unlikely to be just a child's play.
This must be the real "big surprise" because Thaksin's twitter said so itself. "Don't forget to listen to the big surprise at 9 pm", his message said. Well, the song now seems to be just a prelude to this one.
The announcement came in the form of video footage aired at a birthday dinner party organized by the red shirts at the Mangkorn Luang Restaurant in Bangkok and two other venues. Dressed in a red shirt, Thaksin said he spent his birthday meditating and conveying his "compassion" to everyone of his political enemies. (I'm not quite sure if Abhisit will attribute his amazing hattrick to that blessing from Dubai.)
After Thaksin was done with the "compassion" speech, red-shirt leaders were quick to declare that an all-out rally to remove the Abhisit government from office will begin on August 7. Earlier, on July 31, red shirts plan to gather at Sanam Luang to declare success in pardon-Thaksin petition campaign which they say is expected to have been signed by 5 million people on that day. Now, it is claimed, more than 1 million Thais have signed the petition.
I will end my live update here. Thank you for following the events with me and hope to see you all again soon. After all,from what has happened today, it seems we are in for quite a few more unpleasant surprises shortly. Bye everyone.