Friday, September 12, 2003
Nothing to squander
You know the axiom: The Bush administration blundered away
the international outpouring of goodwill after 9/11. Oh
well, with goodwill like
needs anti-Americanism? [via Sully]
And that's from Ireland, mind you. Perhaps I should
do the same with the Thai press. But then again, better not.
We don't want America to mistake us for an enemy, do
Thursday, September 11, 2003
A moment of silence
. . .
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Finally, Thailand debates capital punishment
But not the way you think. While the death penalty has been
74 countries (including Cambodia, Colombia and Côte
d'Ivoire) and is a controversial issue in many that still
have it, here in Thailand, the controversy is whether to
kill more humanely or less so.
Lethal injection will
replace the firing squad starting October 19. Although
there's been no real public debate about this, a popular
talk show that lets viewers "vote" with their cell
phones thought they got an issue here and, much to my
dismay, they were right!
When I stopped watching, a good 30% was voting "no", saying
effectively that lethal injection is too "easy" on the
condemned. One declared outright, "We must have no mercy on
the bad guys." From what I gathered, far from being fringe
radicals, these people are only a notch more fervent than
the 70% who voted "yes". If the question had been whether or
not to scrap the death penalty, the "no" votes would have
been an indignant 99.5%.
That's mind-boggling. All Thais know full well how corrupt
our state is (especially when it comes to law enforcement)
and yet we are perfectly happy to hand it the power to take
life (and in a gruesome manner, for that 30%). This we did
without even demanding in return safeguards such as the jury
or protection against double jeopardy. We crave retribution
that much, it seems.
There are just too many ironies here. This is, after all, a
country that touts itself as "the land of Buddhism"
(purportedly synonymous with compassion, kindness,
forgiveness and all that good stuff). It is also a country
whose public sentiments run high against the war in Iraq (I
guess Saddam & Co don't count as "bad guys"). And still in
this country, a man who confessed to beating his wife to
walked free without even serving a jail term. Try to
reconcile all this and your brain bursts asunder.
P.S. The talk show vote was not without some interesting
anomalies. Some people actually thought lethal injection
more cruel than the firing squad, and both "yes" and
"no" votes resulted from that.
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
Mike vs Sup
Just saw the brilliant Michael Moore on the BBC's "Hard
Talk". (Notice "brilliant", which means I'm talking about
previous Director-General of the WTO, not the
stupid white man who makes
fictitious films, nor--for you Brits--the
Lib Dem MP)
Prior to this, I knew virtually nothing about the former New
Zealand Premier (yes, he held that post, too) but a half hour was
all it took for him to win me over. With such clarity,
conviction, optimism and style, he expounded the promises of
free trade and struck down, one by one, the litany of
attacks against it. And this he did in spite of an
interviewer who was a competent devil's
advocate. (It wasn't Tim Sebastian today, but even the
master nagger himself wouldn't have been able to derail Moore, who
too good.) Evidently, the embattled trading world could use
someone like this to help it move forward.
That, unfortunately, is more than I can say of his
Supachai Panitchpakdi. The former Thai deputy PM simply
lacks all the qualities that Moore so magnificently
exhibited. Put Dr. Sup on the same show and he
wouldn't come out in one piece. And if Hard Talk is hard
time, the actual
WTO round will be incomparably tougher--with hundreds
relentless negotiators (think meaner and less reasonable Tim
Sebastian's) plus thousands of militant NGOs. Whatever his
intellectual background (which, in fact, is far from
exceptional), Supachai's lack of leadership and PR skills
makes him a poor choice as head of the world's most
controversial and bitterly divided body.
Therefore, I hereby motion to "recall" Supachai (à
la California) and then recall Moore to
P.S. You might be wondering how a crashing bore like Dr. Sup
landed on such a plum job in the first place. Here, Surin Pitsuwan--Thai Foreign Minister at the time of
nomination--offers an incredibly self-serving
There was a long pause again. Finally, the US Secretary of
State responded in a more conciliatory tone: "Then what are
we going to do, Surin?"
Her Thai counterpart seized the moment and made a bold
suggestion. "Instead of one director-general for four years,
why don't we think about six years divided between both of
"That sounds interesting!'' she said.
"But you would have to ask your boys in Geneva and
Washington if that would be legal and allowed by the WTO's
rules," her Thai counterpart continued.
"I will check with them and get back to you as soon as I
can," she said.
That was how Dr Supachai's position was secured -- at the
highest diplomatic level between Bangkok and Washington. Not
at the WTO General Council in Geneva, as many had come to
Yeah right, he played Madeline Albright like a fiddle! Wipe
this bullcrap off your eyes before reading on.
More likely, as Moore himself explained, the
job-splitting solution came about from both sides'
realization that it was better to share than to let the EU
sneaked in its own man as a "compromise".
And so it paid off, the petty pigheadedness on the part of
Thailand and the "developing world" (which included
Japan but not most of Latin America). We Thais
finally got to make our consummate contribution to world
incompetence. In return for that, I predict, the world will
in due course
give us what what we so richly deserve: ridicule.
P.P.S. Below is my unpublished letter to the Bunkum Post
regarding Surin's bold-faced
Reading your article headlined “Dr. Supachai’s long and
winding road to Geneva” (Bangkok Post, Perspective,
Aug. 25 ), I grew more and more admiring of the
mysterious foreign minister of the Chuan cabinet. He (or
she?) not only stood his ground defiantly against the wishes
of then-US Secretary of State Madeline Albright, but also
crafted an ingenious solution to the WTO directorship
impasse, effectively handing Mr. Supachai his prized job.
Who could this hitherto unsung hero possibly be?
As in a good thriller, the identity will be revealed only in
the very last line. The heroic foreign minister is none
other than Mr. Surin Pitsuwan—the article’s author himself.
Isn’t that cute?
Unfortunately, neither thrill nor cuteness is what I look
for when reading the Post. A newspaper should inform,
not excite, much less idolize. And politics—international or
Thai—would do well with some ‘full disclosure’. Mr. Surin
has every right to glorify himself and his former
colleagues, but that he himself is doing that must be made
clear from the beginning (so the readers can be
appropriately reserved with their admiration). Anything
short of that is very bad form.
P.P.P.S. For the uninitiated, Supachai, Surin and Chuan all
belong to the (Thai) Democratic Party, which is touted by the like of The
Economist and FEER as "reformist" (as opposed to
"populist"). The touts are wrong. Surin's
article not only pitted "the North" and "the South"
against each other, but also never once mentioned "free
trade" or "liberalization", opting instead for the "fair
trade" rubbish. If that's not populist, I don't know what
Monday, September 08, 2003
With a Democrat like
needs a Republican: [from Slate]
Lieberman's attack on Dean elicits excited "ooohs" from the
reporters watching the debate on television in the hall's
basement. Lieberman brings up Dean's opposition to trading
with countries that do not have the same labor and
environmental standards as the United States, and he calls
it "stunning": "He said he would not have bilateral trade
agreements with any country that did not have American
standards. That would mean we would not have trade
agreements with Mexico, with most of the rest of the world.
That would cost us millions of jobs." Then, after peppering
Dean with jabs, Lieberman rears back to throw the knockout
punch: If Dean were elected president and carried out his
promised trade policies, "The Bush recession would be
followed by the Dean depression."
It beats me how Dean's come to be known as the
"straight-talking insurgent". Like Bush in 2000, he simply
panders to his hard-line base. Lieberman, on the other hand,
is the real thing, like McCain. And like McCain, he'll
Why don't the two renegades get together and start a party?
I think they'll get 90% of bloggers' votes.
, please see the