Thaksin party spurns coup-makers – Asian Media Report April 22

Apr 22, 2023
Voter on an waiving Thailand flag background.

In Asian Media this week: Shinawatra daughter aims to follow father and aunt. Plus: Rare diplomatic success on Taiwan; meet the new word for US bosses its allies; Indian government and court in same-sex showdown; EV rules block foreign competitors; estimates of big cat survival numbers.

Thailand will vote in a general election next month and the party favoured to win is Pheu Thai – the one associated with exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The party is working hard to win a majority of the 500-member lower house.

Under the Thai system, the prime minister does not have to be an MP. Parties nominate candidates and a joint parliamentary sitting of 750 MPs decides the winner. Getting a majority in its own right would be a big step towards winning the PM vote.

One of Pheu Thai’s candidates is Thaksin’s daughter, Paetongtarn Shinawatra. Bangkok Post reported this week she had made it plain – by inference more than outright declaration – that the party would not work with anyone involved in the 2006 or 2014 coups.

The first coup toppled her father; the second ousted her aunt, Yingluck Shinawatra.

Paetongtarn’s position reflects her confidence that Pheu Thai will not need the backing of parties led by current PM Prayut Chan-o-cha or his main deputy, Prawit Wongsuwon. These retired generals masterminded the 2014 coup.

Bangkok Post said Pheu Thai had consistently revised its MP targets, from an initial 250 up to 270 and now to 310. This would mean a governing majority in the lower house. Having 300 MPs would take it close to the 376 votes needed to win the joint-houses election for PM.

Paetongtarn is one of three Pheu Thai candidates for the PM’s position. The others are Chaikasem Nitisiri, the party’s chief strategist, and Srettha Thavisin, a property development tycoon who has resigned his corporate positions.

Chaikasem said the party’s pick could be any of the three. Polls rate Paetongtarn as the most popular prime ministerial candidate from any party but the Post reported this week that Srettha was already describing himself as Thailand’s next prime minister.

Footnote: In an interview last month, Thaksin said he was ready to serve his prison term if he were allowed to spend the rest of his life with his family in Thailand. Thaksin left the country 15 years ago just before being sentenced to two years’ imprisonment on a conflict of interest charge.

The question is: what did not happen?

The most important aspect of China-US relationships in recent days is what did not happen.

US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy did not go to Taiwan to meet President Tsai Ing-wen.

China reacted to their meeting in America but did not repeat the scale of the military action that followed Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taipei last August.

And the region was not plunged into yet another superpower crisis.

Journalist and author James Crabtree, executive director of the Asia office of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, says it is unfortunate there has been so little comment on the careful management that ensured McCarthy’s meeting with Tsai did not cause a repetition of the Pelosi crisis.

“It would be wise to learn lessons from a rare moment in which diplomatic efforts in the region bore fruit,” he says.

Writing in Singapore’s The Straits Times, Crabtree says at least three parties deserve credit for this happy near-miss.

They are: Tsai, who told McCarthy a visit to Taiwan would not help the island’s security; McCarthy, who took her advice, even though he had promised to go to Taiwan; and White House officials who spotted the risk a second Speaker visit would pose to the relationship with China.

“They recognised, too, that Mrs Pelosi’s trip did the US few favours in the region,” Crabtree says… “Officials in the White House met intensively to manage the visit and any diplomatic fallout.

“Crucially, they talked to the Chinese.”

Crabtree says there are senior US figures who are trying to manage relations with China sensibly. And there are likely to be some in Beijing who are open to discussion.

He says: “Ms Tsai’s US visit showed it is possible to work behind the scenes to defuse potentially escalatory situations – and thus that there is no need for complete fatalism over future Sino-US ties.”

Chinese paper coins English word

China Daily, an official English-language paper, has come up with a new verb: “to Natolize.”

The paper used the word in an editorial criticising the joint communique issued after this week’s G7 foreign ministers’ meeting Japan.

The communique attacked China, Russia and North Korea. China Daily responded: “The club of the richest economies is allowing itself to be ‘Natolized’ by Washington as a geopolitical tool of the US.”

The Japan Times reported the G7 diplomats stressed their unity in tackling pressing issues – China’s assertiveness over Taiwan and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The paper quoted the communique as saying the ministers had underlined their “strong sense of unity as the world navigates grave threats to the international system”.

The emphasis on unity was apparently a response to recent remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron that European powers should not be followers of the US or China in their confrontation over Taiwan.

The ministers demanded that Beijing refrain from using “threats, coercion, intimidation or the use of force.”

But The Asahi Shimbun newspaper said the main point of discussion at the three-day meeting was Russia.

“There can be no impunity for war crimes and other atrocities such as Russia’s attacks against civilians and critical civilian infrastructure,” the communique said.

The Korea Times reported the ministers demanded that North Korea end nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches.

Pyongyang said last week it had tested a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile, saying it was a breakthrough for North Korea’s nuclear counterattack capabilities.

China’s Foreign Ministry, as reported by China Daily, said the G7 ministers had maliciously smeared China, grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs and created antagonism in the international community.

And China Daily liked its new word so much it used it twice, ending the editorial by saying the G7 was “increasingly ‘Natolized’.”

Court stakes its ground on same-sex marriage issue

India’s Government and its Supreme Court are engaged in a showdown over same-sex marriage.

The court is hearing claims from a series of petitioners from the LGBTQIA community on the legal right to same-sex unions. The Government is firmly opposed.

The Government’s opening gambit, The Hindu newspaper reported, was to argue that the demand for legal recognition of same-sex marriages was merely an expression of urban elitist views.

The court would adjudicate on the basis of elitist views, the Government said. Parliament, however, would consider the broader views of rural, semi-rural and urban populations, religious dominations, personal laws and customs and the effect of same-sex unions on other marriage-related laws.

But the court said sexual orientation was an innate characteristic over which people had no control. “The state cannot discriminate against individuals on the basis of a characteristic over which they have no control,” Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said.

He also said the state could not push aside demands for legal recognition as urban and elitist without data to support the claim.

Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta told the court it could not decide a new socio-legal relationship for the nation. Parliament should decide the issue, he said.

That brought a rebuke from Justice Chandrachud. “I am sorry, Mr Solicitor-General, we are in charge,” he said. “Don’t tell us how to conduct our proceedings.”

The chief justice then asked petitioners to begin their case and outline their grievances.

Environmental benefit – and industry protection

EVs – electric vehicles – reduce carbon dioxide emissions and help the fight against global warming. They also help protect the American car industry.

The US on Monday announced the EVs that will qualify for a consumer tax credit of up to $7,500.

According to The Korea Herald all the EVs on the list are produced by US carmakers. “Seven foreign carmakers – mostly from Korea, Germany and Japan – failed to make the list,” the paper said.

The US has imposed rules that limit the availability of the tax credits. To qualify for a $3,750 credit, EVs must be assembled in the US and use more than 50 per cent of battery components made locally. For an extra $3,750 credit, more than 40 per cent of battery materials should be mined and refined in the US or in countries with free trade agreements with the US.

The Korea Times said no Hyundai Motor Corporation models – Hyundai Motor, Kia and Genesis – made the list.

Hyundai’s GV70, a luxury SUV under the Genesis brand, was excluded because it is equipped with Chinese batteries.

The rules are also causing concern in Indonesia, which wants to secure a limited free trade agreement with the US to get the benefits of the EV consumer tax credits. But The Jakarta Post said this would be a tough task as the country has leaned toward China in attracting investments to develop its critical minerals.

Indonesia is the world’s biggest producer of nickel, which is used in making EV batteries, and hopes to become a substantial supplier. “The country has made a huge effort to leverage its nickel reserves to bring in investment from EV and battery producers,” the Post said.

Big cats get international help

India has long had a tiger conservation programme, to boost the tiger population and protect their natural habitat. Prime Minister Narendra Modi this month announced a broader project – a global alliance that will work towards savings six more big cat species – the cheetah, jaguar, leopard, lion, puma and snow leopard.

It is called (no surprises here) the International Big Cats Alliance.

The Hindu newspaper says the Modi first proposed an international group fighting poaching and the illegal wildlife trade in 2019, when he released India’s first tiger census report. Modi said the big cat alliance was an extension of the spirit of his original proposal.

The paper has published with its news report a detailed “explainer” giving details of big cat geography, surviving numbers and threat status.

Here are the estimates:

Lions – 23,000-39,000; tigers – 3,700-5,000; snow leopards – 4,000-6,500; jaguars – about 173,000; cheetahs – fewer than 7,000; pumas – about 50,000; leopards – about 250,000.

Share and Enjoy !

Subscribe to John Menadue's Newsletter
Subscribe to John Menadue's Newsletter


Thank you for subscribing!