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  • Living in Thailand Blog March 2006

 

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Living In Thailand Blog

Thursday 30th March 2006

This ongoing political situation is just getting silly. With the farcical election set to take place on Sunday, the protests are reaching a crescendo and parts of Bangkok have been paralysed. The anti-Thaksin movement now risks inconveniencing the very people who support it by disrupting life in Bangkok for the educated middle-classes.

Thaksin, meanwhile, continues to insist he has done nothing wrong. It seems that those people who do not support him will go to the polls to put a cross in the 'No Vote' box and those who support him will obviously vote for TRT.

The rural poor communities will ensure another TRT 'win' and then what is supposed to happen? This is the crazy thing. If Thaksin comes back again after the election and says he has a mandate from the majority of the electorate to lead the country it will just add fuel to the fire and who knows what will happen next.

There is no way now that the anti-Thaksin supporters will accept his premiership. He can keep calling elections and he will keep winning but it doesn't solve the core issues. Of course, this is Asia and there is a huge amount of 'face' at stake which only complicates the issue.

To resign would be a big loss of face, especially as he predicted in the past he would serve four or five terms.

People are getting fatigued and frustrated. The King has been petitioned to appoint a prime minister to oversee amendments to the Constitution. However, it's not exactly fair on the King and if the Thais really want democracy, this is not the way to go about it.

The danger now with the increasing unrest is that it could turn violent. Nothing is worse than citizens of a country killing each other and far too much blood has been spilt in Thailand already in the past over political issues.

I'm just about to leave the country for a while so will miss out on the action but I will be following events closely from a little further down the peninsular.

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Monday 27th March 2006

Another fantastic article from The Nation. Their journalism is exemplary. This journalists analysis of the current situation is breathtakingly accurate and he manages to articulate it clearly and concisely in just a few short words.

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Saturday 25th March 2006

Comparing dictators - another interesting article from The Nation comparing two Southeast Asian countries; Thailand and the Philippines. With the Philippines reputation for corruption and bad leadership, how unfortunate for Thailand that comparisons are being made. The article makes a good point that, "dictators should be put in jail after they were ousted."

What on earth is happening in Thailand? People are furious now but Thaksin still refuses to go. The man has gone insane with power, still believing that he has done nothing wrong and totally blind to the reality of the situation.

Another rally is planned this weekend and by all accounts it will be the largest one so far. Patience is running out and I fear that if he remains stubbornly defiant - as he has done so far - it will start to turn nasty.

I finished the book I was reading about Thaksin last night - 'Thaksin: The business of politics in Thailand by Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker'. One of the appendices contains the asset declarations for Thaksin and his wife when he came to power in 2001. Considering how many millions of desperately poor people there are in Thailand, it made for quite obscene reading.

His wife's fleet of cars alone (BMW, Ferrari, Porsche, Benz, etc.) was valued at over Bt44 million and, relatively speaking, these assets were just a tiny drop in the ocean.

Their actual wealth though is far greater than listed in the book. At the time a lot of wealth was concealed and these declarations did not include the money transferred to their domestic staff or to offshore companies in the Virgin Islands.

Since Thaksin has been in power the value of Shin Corp and the wealth of the Shinawatra and Damapong families have increased massively - even before the Bt73.3 billion deal selling Shin Corp to Temasek. What on earth can anyone do with so much money? To satisfy even the worst materialism only requires a small fraction of the amount of money they have.

To have this much and to still be greedy for more has to be a mental illness of some kind. There is no other explanation.

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Thursday 23rd March 2006

Plans to privatise the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) have been dropped, much to the delight of the majority of the Thai people. Ever since the idea was proposed there has been plenty of opposition but Thaksin, with his dictatorial style of leadership, was determined to make it happen.

He had plans to privatise other state assets and was hoping to raise an estimated Bt80 billion. Ever since Margaret Thatcher started to do this in the UK it has been a controversial issue. Undoubtedly many state industries, unworried by competition and with guaranteed business, are run inefficiently. Some accountability with P&L responsibility isn't necessarily a bad thing to improve efficiency.

However, this is Thailand and it doesn't take a genius to figure out what would have happened. Thaksin, his family, and his cronies would have done very nicely from such a move. It is unclear what he will do with the Bt73.3 billion from the sale of Shin Corp but some were speculating he would use it to buy up more of Thailand's assets which he would be able to do by privatising state industries.

Also, inevitably, more Thai assets would fall into the hands of foreign investors and that is a very sore point in Thailand at the moment.

I am pleased for Thailand. I am also pleased because I believe this ruling is quite significant. There is no doubt that people have been scared of Thaksin recently. With such a huge parliamentary majority he has been allowed to do what he wants unchallenged.

As a result of the financial crisis in 1997 a new constitution was drafted incorporating lots of checks and balances to try to ensure that Thailand wouldn't suffer the same fate again. Thaksin infiltrated each of these institutions - the Constitutional Court, the National Counter Corruption Commission and the Election Commission - effectively destroying them.

For a long time in Thailand governments have been opposed not by opposition parties but by the press. This was something else he tried to do away by either buying his way into media organisations or threatening huge law suits. Editors and journalists were fired, TV shows and radio programmes closed down, and many media companies started to exercise self-censorship.

The EGAT ruling was made by the The Supreme Administrative Court and what is happening now is that the checks and balances institutions and the press have started to get their teeth back. Newspapers which previously were scared are now saying what they really think.

The tide has definitely turned but not before time. Some of the more superstitious observers in Thailand are connecting what happened at the Erawan Shrine and the current political crisis, saying that it is a bad omen for Thaksin.

He himself is a deeply superstitious man and was reported to be consulting Cambodian black magic specialists recently. He is guided by his astrologer and will not speak or make decisions at inauspicious times.

The Nation has suggested it is like a 'Thai version of a Harry Potter novel'.

Thaksin also seems to have lost the support of the military who he courted when he came to power by raising their budgets again after years of decline. Issuing a state of emergency would be a very convenient way of getting protesters off the streets and silencing the constant criticism he faces now.

However, the army - rightly - has said there is no justification because the protests have been peaceful. Thaksin continues to use the English word 'mob' which I dislike intensely. The Thais I have spoken to also use it to and I have been correcting them because of the negative connotations of the word.

The protesters aren't a mob. They are in fact mostly the middle-class, educated elite of Thailand but it suits Thaksin to brand them all as an unruly mob who just want to stir up trouble.

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Tuesday 21st March 2006

West Ham are through to the FA Cup semi-finals. What a great start to the day as I scan the Internet for news.

Not so good is reading about what happened in Bangkok in the early hours of this morning. A mentally deranged Thai man destroyed the Phra Prom Brahma statue at the Hyatt Erawan Hotel. He used a hammer and completely destroyed it at around 1am.

I spent some time taking photographs around this shrine a few months ago and to try to describe what it means to the Thai people is impossible. It is one of the most revered items of worship in Thailand.

He was lynched and beaten to death with an iron bar. It sounds barbaric but as a result of his actions it will surprise no one who understands the significance. A white cloth has been put in place to hide the damage from public view.

The statue, along with other important religious statues and buildings, was a great source of comfort to the Thai people. People arrive in their thousands every day to place garlands, light candles and incense, and to pay their respects.

Every Thai passing by wais and pays respect. Thailand is in a state of political flux at the moment with a widening gap between the poor and the rest of society. The poor still believe Thaksin is genuinely trying to help them and are angry that those who really understand what he is up to want to get rid of him.

What isn't needed right now is anything like this which will cause a lot of suffering among all classes of Thai people regardless of their wealth.

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Saturday 18th March 2006

I spent a long time yesterday on an Internet forum trying to understand why the local photo labs couldn't print my TIFF files. The general consensus was that my file was 16-Bit and the lab can probably only handle 8-Bit files. I created new 8-Bit files and took them along this morning.

I will know the result this evening; whether they had any success printing this time or not. If all else fails I will have to resort to JPG but I was trying to avoid any compression in order to preserve image quality.

I seem to have become a professional photographer recently apart from the fact I don't earn any money from it. Having a digital SLR and understanding photography has made me popular. I have been asked to photograph a bride and groom tomorrow for their pre-wedding pics.

Originally my friend Aor was also going to be taking photos but she wasn't able to borrow a camera so it is just me. I am not totally happy about being the sole photographer on a fairly important shoot but as I'm not getting paid I don't believe I should be made responsible if it doesn't work out.

The weather today is incredibly hot. It is just too hot to be outside and I really don't like it. My decision to move last October was an excellent one. Not only did it get me away from a landlord who is the second biggest arsehole in Thailand, but my new room doesn't get any direct sunlight and stays about 15 degrees cooler than the last one.

A quick update on the political situation here which has turned into a complete stalemate. The Thais are absolutely furious with Thaksin now and his continued presence in politics seems to be untenable. If he had any sense he would just walk but he is the most arrogant man on the planet.

As soon as the heat started to rise in Bangkok he took refuge in Isaan among his 'beloved' poor. Why he won't resign is partly a 'face' thing. He has claimed in the past he would rule for 20 years and he would only be voted out when people started to feel sorry for the opposition.

But apart from that, he has lost touch with reality. He knows better than anyone how he has lied and cheated but in the artificial environment in which he sits now he still thinks people love him. What is a shame is how successful he has been in hoodwinking naive people.

If only Thailand's poor could see through him like everyone else can now. They really think he is their only salvation and cannot see that he only uses them to secure votes.

This stupid election looks set to go through on April 2, I think, but there is some doubt because a minimum of 500 candidate is required or something and if the opposition parties boycott the election this minimum number may not be reached. It's a mess.

The military are maintaining they will not intervene and the PAD have kept their demonstrations very peaceful. Thaksin was looking for an excuse to issue a state of emergency where he could impose curfews and forcefully get people off the streets but he has no justification to do this.

Many people are waiting for royal intervention but this is hardly fair on the King who is no longer a young man. If, as some people believe, last week's TV showing of the King's speech in 1992 was the 'whisper' to Thaksin to get out, Thaksin has either ignored it or gone back on his word.

With feelings running as high as they are, I think it is only a matter of time.

The Nation today ran a great piece on the political stalemate and class division that is at the root of the current crisis. Their journalism is exemplary and I wish the BBC would take it as an example.

Thailand's poor are horribly exploited and it is other Thais who exploit them most. They are great for cheap labour, prostitution, menial tasks or (as the Nation commented), "as picture-perfect farmers with the backdrop of green paddy fields on the postcards that help attract foreign tourists."

They probably understand that Thaksin is further exploiting them in order to gain votes but at least he is doing something for them whereas previous governments haven't. In the past it has been left mainly to the monarchy to set up initiatives for the poor.

I can understand both sides. It isn't difficult to see why Thaksin has supporters at the same time that people are protesting to have him removed from politics.

Thailand is not a poor country but the distribution of wealth among its people is bordering on criminal. This is something that needs to be seriously addressed.

What is interesting though is that with the technology revolution that has been transforming the world in recent years, other countries are creating a bigger divide between the 'haves' and 'have nots'. The most violent places on earth are where people with huge differences in wealth live together. For example, South Africa and Brazil.

With each piece of technology that comes along and destroys jobs, a few people get much richer but many people become a lot poorer. Nothing will stop the technology - and nothing should stop it - but, as societies, how we take care of everyone needs some serious thought.

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Tuesday 14th March 2006

My prediction was correct. Today, when I went back to the photo lab, they told me they couldn't print my files but they couldn't tell me why. I went to another shop and they said they could. My flash drive was given to a 10 year-old girl, the daughter of the owner I think, who seems to be working with her mother during the school holidays.

The kid ran off not knowing which photos I wanted printed. Not a good start. She was called back and the flash drive was given to a guy who I hoped knew what he was doing. He didn't. He plugged it into a USB hub with four slots. Just as I saw the computer begin to recognise the new hardware he pulled it out and stuck it in another slot without stopping it first. Unbelievable.

When he went to view the files one was flagged as being corrupted. At this point steam started to come from my ears but I managed not explode and walked out of the shop totally exasperated.

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Monday 13th March 2006

Thailand can be such a frustrating country to live in at times and it isn't just because of the language barrier. Today I wanted to get the photos developed that I took at the temple yesterday so I could give them to my friend.

The photo lab is quite good but it depends who you deal with. Wages are so low in Thailand that businesses employ lots of low-paid staff but they aren't the brightest of people and they don't get much training.

My first trip was to get small prints of all the photos which I then showed to Urs, my friend. She chose a couple she liked and I went back again - after doing some computer work - to get large prints done. On both occasions the lab corrupted files by pulling the USB flash drive out without stopping it first.

The first time they corrupted the file and then copied it to their server. When we looked at the original it was bad and although I was convinced it was OK earlier I couldn't prove anything.

On the second occasion they copied the file before corrupting it. They tried to tell me my original copy was bad but when we looked at the server copy which had been done before the corruption took place it was fine. That was the proof I needed.

At times like this in Thailand you are supposed to keep calm (jai yen yen) but I really have a problem keeping my cool when people are doing stupid things. After corrupting my high quality image the guy wanted to patch it up in Photoshop.

The image started life as a RAW file from a digital SLR and, after careful Photoshop editing, I saved it as a very high quality TIFF file. I was therefore not impressed with the idea of someone screwing it up and then doing some patchy repairs with the Photoshop clone tool to try to correct it.

The photos won't be ready until tomorrow and I have the feeling there may be more problems when I collect them. The young lad told me he was going to correct the colours but I don't want him to touch anything; all I want them to do is the printing.

My laptop is only a couple of months old and the monitor is good. The monitors in the shop are old and the images look washed out on them. If he does screw around with the colours I will not be pleased and it could be another case of becoming jai rawn tomorrow.

Not only is what happened today annoying but the fact they denied it was anything to do with them and blamed me is also annoying. And it's not the first time that kind of thing has happened to me here. It's a loss of face thing I guess.

Change subject. I know I go on a lot about Thai driving but it is complete lunacy. I have just witnessed another road accident and I also saw one last night. The one last night looked pretty bad. They had already taken the victims away from the scene of the accident and the police were making their report and taking eye-witness statements. They had completely closed off a busy road.

The one tonight involved two motorbikes. One crashed into the other while it was stationary waiting at a set of traffic lights and I heard the crash. No one was hurt. The guy whose fault it was picked up his bike and drove away.

There were two males on the stationary bike and they weren't happy. Some cross words were exchanged and they tried to restrain the driver of the other bike but he just zoomed off. I am pretty certain that they drive around without insurance.

First, insurance by its very nature involves thinking about events that may occur in the future and the Thais are not good when it comes to thinking about the future. They just live for the moment. Secondly, what must premiums for motorbike insurance be like in Thailand? Insurers have to be mad to insure motorbikes here so if they do at all they are sure to charge sky high premiums.

Hat Yai is a lot smaller than Bangkok of course but the roads are just as manic. I find it frightening during the morning and evening rush hours. The Thais have one driving style which is flat out. It matters not if it is during rush hour, if it is dark or if it is pouring of rain and the roads are slippery - they drive exactly the same way.

I limit the times I take motorbike taxis as much as possible but I will never use them downtown during rush hour. I don't like seeing accidents victims; it upsets me. However, and I hate to say this, when I see the way some of them drive, they deserve what they get. As I started off by saying, it is lunacy - plain and simple.

Change subject again. The anti-Thaksin movement is reaching a crescendo. Another huge rally is forming in Bangkok ready for more protests tomorrow. Tomorrow is significant as it is the day the Temasek deal is finalised.

A lot of Thais hoped that Temasek would back out of the deal because of the furore it has created but it looks set to go ahead. Thaksin still has his supporters from the poor, rural areas of Thailand and it is possible that there could be violent clashes between the two groups.

A couple of small bombs were set off in Bangkok this week but so far there haven't been any deaths like there were in 1992 when protestors were shot and killed. No one wants to see more violence but with Thaksin still maintaining his innocence (despite all the damning evidence against him) it may be what is required to force his exit.

A speech the King made 14 years ago during the last big political crisis was aired on TV last night. Thaksin has admitted that the King only has to whisper in his ear, "Thaksin, go," and he will go. Some commentators have interpreted what was shown on TV last night as that whisper.

The much revered King is by far the most influential person in Thailand but has to observe royal protocol. Royal protocol dictates that he cannot speak out as freely as maybe he wants to but he is a very clever man and a master of making sure that what he has to say is heard.

His birthday speeches are always very interesting. During his last one he very cleverly made the point to Thaksin that he isn't above criticism and that he should listen to what others say rather than just gagging every critic with a huge law suit. A few days after that speech Thaksin dropped the law suits he had put in place earlier.

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Sunday 12th March 2006

The son and nephew of one of my friends were ordained as Buddhist monks this morning and I was invited along. It was a first for me and a good experience. Like many young Thai men, they will only spend a short time at the temple - just two weeks - but it brings a lot of honour to the family.

I decided to take a walk around a nearby park afterwards but spent rather too long out in the sun. When I got back I was suffering from mild sunstroke I think and slept for six hours. When I finally woke up it was all I could do to shower and go back to bed again. I had hoped that today would be a very productive one for getting tasks done but I have done nothing.

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Saturday 11th March 2006

Up until now I haven't seen much reaction about Thaksin from people I know but this morning I shared a coffee with a guy I see occasionally who speaks reasonable English and he was so furious he could hardly control himself.

Whenever Thaksin gets mentioned I normally find myself launching into a tirade but I kept quiet today, wanting to hear what this guy had to say. He just repeated all of the stuff I knew already but what came across is that what is really upsetting the Thais is the fact he has sold Shin Corp to Singapore.

There is a real fear that Singapore will have access to information that could compromise national security and that Singapore could start to exercise control over Thailand. Once again, the Thai anger is about selling Thailand and not the fact that Thaksin has made a huge fortune by cheating and lying.

Some Thais are even talking about boycotting companies and products linked to Temasek and Shin Corp but the protests haven't changed anything. The takeover looks set to be completed on March 14th. Thaksin is still denying it had anything to do with him personally. "It is my children who sold the stocks," he said. As I commented before, after a lifetime of habitually lying, he just can't differentiate the truth from lies any more. This also says something about his morality.

Phantongtae Shinawatra, Thaksin's son, who Thaksin used (as well as his daughter) to do the dirty deal with Temasek so he could avoid paying tax has been fined Bt6 million for not informing the Securities and Exchange Commission. The family are so rich that this is the equivalent of me pulling a huge money-making scam and then being fined about Bt10. This, supposedly, is justice.

After my Thai friend's rant was over I gave a few of my own opinions and he seemed stunned that I knew as much as I did. Perhaps farangs aren't expected to understand what is happening in Thai politics? I guess that many in Phuket and Pattaya don't have a clue.

On the BBC web site I spotted that Silvio Berlusconi (Italy's PM and a man who is remarkably similar to Thaksin) could also be up on corruption charges fairly soon. I wonder if the Italians have been spurred into action as a result of what's been happening in Thailand lately?

Talking of the BBC, my estimation of their news reporting has really gone down since reading their reports on the Thailand situation. What Thaksin has done is factual and everything can be verified but the BBC keep using vocabulary such as 'alleged' and 'some Thais accuse him of this and that'.

Perhaps they are afraid of one of Thaksin's famous lawsuits which get issued after media organisations criticise him? I don't know what the reason is. Perhaps their correspondent in Thailand doesn't actually know what is going on. Whatever the reason, their reporting is not giving the full story.

If you want to know what is going on, there is only one source you need to go to. The Nation. The Nation has been on Thaksin's case for years. They never gave in to his threats, unlike many other publications, but continued to tell the truth even though the journalists were putting themselves in a lot of danger.

After last year's election where Thaksin was voted in by a landslide I wasn't sure what The Nation was going to do but they stuck to their guns and continued to report his misdemeanours. Finally, thanks to Sondhi getting the ball rolling, it looks as if justice might actually be served.

Those journalists working for The Nation should be immensely proud of what they have done. It is just a shame there isn't a Thai language version so that more Thais could take advantage of The Nations excellent reporting.

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Wednesday 8th March 2006

Thaksin's delusions continue. When the going gets tough, he gets going - to where he usually goes in a crisis - to Isaan. The poor, uneducated, rural folk in the north and north-east still believe he is their friend. That's where he has run off to hear some kind words and no doubt his pockets will be bulging with Bt1,000 notes which he will hand out to his adoring supporters, as he usually does.

Meanwhile, according to Thaksin, every academic, intellectual, political scientist, university student and middle-class professional in Thailand is just a thug who wants to destroy 'democracy' by mob-rule.

Why doesn't he just go? I was doubtful a few weeks ago that he would but the campaign is growing so strong now I think he will have to. If he doesn't go voluntarily there will be violence, strikes, and possibly another military coup that Thailand had thought it had seen the last of. Already, investors are getting panicky and the economy is suffering.

In addition, the problems in the south continue with more killings in Pattani earlier this week. It has become crystal clear that for as long as Thaksin remains in power there will not be an end to the violence. He is clueless about how to solve it and the reason is that he doesn't really care. To him it is just an annoyance he has to be seen to be dealing with while all he wants to do is get on with deals that will benefit him personally.

The BBC ran an article entitled Takbai legacy lingers in Thai south on Monday. I will never forget the day it happened. I was walking around Hat Yai at the time and saw a crowd of people gathered around a TV in a shop selling electrical equipment.

The brutality of what had happened brought tears to my eyes. Thais are very kind people and in the south there is no animosity between Muslims and people of other religions. Thai Muslims in the south have been messed around for years as the border has gone up and down due to colonial interference.

Their culture is Malay, even though the last border change located them in Thailand, and they are entitled to keep their unique culture and not have Thai culture forced upon them. If the English tried to assimilate Scotland into England and force English culture, language, surnames, places names, etc. on the Scots and attempt to teach the English version of historical events in Scottish schools there would be a civil war.

The situation is no different in Thailand yet that is what the Thai government wants to happen and, just like the anti-Thaksin protestors, anyone who tries to stand up against the government is labelled a thug or a terrorist. The way that innocent people were stacked like logs into army trucks and transported to army camps only to die of suffocation in transit was a terrible crime but no one has been found guilty.

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Monday 6th March 2006

The latest (and biggest) anti-Thaksin rally was held yesterday. The People's Alliance for Democracy say it will be the final rally but some protestors will remain until he resigns. The rumours about what will happen next are rife. General strikes are planned, which won't be much fun, and there are more rumours about a military coup.

Thaksin remains as defiant as ever which puzzles me. His whole life has been spent doing things that are wrong in order to benefit himself. The book I just bought confirms that and it is all based on verified facts. I can only think that his lying behaviour is now so pathological that he honestly can't tell the difference between right and wrong.

But the Thais also puzzle me. They seem completely unbothered about the vast personal fortune he has made by using personal contacts and inside knowledge to win concessions and to avoid financial loss. It was the 1997 financial crisis in Thailand, that destroyed many people financially, that saved Thaksin. Shin Corp made a very small loss compared to rival companies and all because he knew in advance about the forthcoming devaluation of the Baht.

When this horrible episode is all over he will just walk away with his ill-gotten gains scot-free to live a life of luxury somewhere. Despite the fact he and his family have committed criminal acts, no one will serve any jail time and no assets will be seized.

The only thing that seems to have upset the Thais is that national assets are now in the hands of foreigners. There are questions about national security because some of those assets involve telecommunications but, most of all, Thais want to keep Thailand in Thai hands.

Thaksin used this sense of nationalism to gain power. After the 1997 crisis the Thais blamed globalisation and international currency speculators (George Soros in particular) for the financial collapse. John Laird's book paints a slightly different (and probably more accurate) picture but it is more difficult for the Thais to accept that greed, corruption, cronyism and some negative aspects of Thai culture were to blame.

He was the big, successful businessman who understood business, globalisation and how to protect Thailand from nasty, greedy foreigners. His choice of party name, "Thais love Thais," enforced the sense of nationalism and patriotism. Even his fiercest critics now (including Sondhi) were fans of his a few years ago because he seized the moment and seemed to offer Thailand exactly what was needed at that time.

The trouble with Thaksin is that he has only ever thought about one person - himself. He exploited the situation in Thailand perfectly and made an even bigger fortune than he had done in business. But after five years in office with so much wealth and power he became deluded and thought he was infallible.

He betrayed the Thai people by doing exactly what they thought he would help them guard against. He just started selling Thailand off to the highest bidders. With plans to privatise the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and other state enterprises, even more of Thailand's assets will be sold off if he is allowed to continue in office. Sunday 5th March 2006

I could stay in Phuket another day but I am bored with it and I really want to have a free day at home tomorrow before going back to work on Tuesday. There are a couple of good things about Phuket. The farang food is good and there are some good bookshops with lots of English language books. On this trip I bought 'Thaksin - The business of politics in Thailand' by Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker.

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Friday 3rd March 2006

Once again it is time to get back on the bus to Phuket to meet my family. These days I only ever go to Phuket when I have to. It's a long trip on the bus and not much fun. As soon as I get there the rip-offs start and that just pisses me off even more.

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Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.

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If you click on one of the destinations opposite you will get a list of hotel deals from Agoda. It's generally a good idea to book on-line because you will get a good room rate and you won't suffer the disappointment of arriving at a hotel to find that it is full.

I book hotels regularly in Thailand and I have always found Agoda to be the best on-line travel agent. At times I have spent a lot of time researching hotel prices and although other deals sometimes look better at first I always end up returning to Agoda.

If you don't wish to pay for your hotel at the time of booking, Booking.com normally allows you to pay when you check in at the hotel. Some people prefer this method, but I have always found Booking.com to be more expensive than Agoda.

If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined. However, you will normally find that Agoda is the cheapest and therefore you can save yourself time and money by just booking through Agoda in the first place.

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