Scotland's missed opportunity
Scotland voted to retain its umbilical cord to England and the union.
have been thinking a lot about this over the last few weeks and I still fear
that the Scottish people have missed a glorious opportunity to build a
better future for their country and its people; a future where they control
their own destiny.
the links to Britain would always be there - as a member of the Commonwealth
of nations - and linked by trade, language, and a shared history.
weeks before the referendum a poll suddenly suggested that the "yes"
supporters had maybe just enough momentum for an independent nation.
Suddenly Westminster sprung into action. Political leaders of all parties
flooded over the border in a last-ditch, stoic defence of the union. Two
weeks of sudden interest after a "no" campaign that was both confused and weak.
Suddenly Westminster was promising the one thing that was not on the
referendum ballot - the so-called devo-max - giving much greater
self-government to Scotland. There were no clear plans - just a promise that
something would be done. Meanwhile the rest of the establishment provided
enough fear mongering over currency, passports and the migration south of
business to persuade a small majority to give Westminster a chance.
At the start of the campaign
the no campaign expected a rout. In the end PM Cameron had to rush north, in realisation that
his abiding political legacy might be the end of the union.
The vibrant and euphoric yes movement, which, during the debate, evolved
from a small base to come within a whisker of a sensational victory, will be
massively disappointed that they didn't manage to get it done.
supporters of independence will wait for some time but anybody
believing they'll stop now is indulging in wishful thinking. Why would they?
Support for independence rose during the campaign from around 30% to 45%.
And the no votes were dominated only in a declining constituency of elderly voters. Yes
may have lost this battle, but the war is being won.
taken after the vote indicate that had voting been restricted only to the
under 55s the yes vote would have won. Remarkably Scotland's future was
decided by those people who have the least vested in the future.
Without a major change in the way Britain is governed Scottish independence
has been postponed only - maybe 10 years - maybe 20 years. But the time will
Forty-five percent of the Scottish people still voted to leave the union.
That is an astonishingly high figure. This union is more than 300 years’
old. If just five voters in a hundred had voted the other way, the
independence campaign would have won.
As part of the same Westminster panic, politicians promised that if Scotland
voted ‘no’ to independence the country would get substantial and continued
subsidies from the rest of Great Britain. It is a sweetheart deal. Yet 45%
of voters in Scotland still rejected it. And that deal is now,
understandably, causing resentment and a backlash in England. Politicians in
Westminster may even renege on the pledge. It would not be the first time.
could be a disaster for Westminster's politicians. The Tories, at least had enough self-awareness to realise how detested they
are in Scotland, stood aside to let Labour run the no campaign. But for Labour, the outcome
may be costly; when the dust settles they will be seen, probably on both sides of
the border, to have used their power and influence against the aspiration
towards democracy. Labour voters moved from the no to the yes tea in large
numbers and it may be that the Labour leadership has acted as recruiters for
simple fact that Labour was acting as a proxy for the Conservative
government will alienate voters. It provided more (and probably decisive)
evidence of just how the party has been co-opted by the establishment.
Worryingly at the 2015 election the main benefactors in England of the
failure of the Tory and Labour parties could be the fringe groups such as
UKIP. Xenophobia at its worst.
Cameron was at first absent and uninterested, then finally fearful. Miliband
looked just as ineffective and totally lost during this campaign.
Others dancing the no tune included senior officials of banks and supermarkets dancing
and of course the London press. They will have few friends among the yes
The problem for the establishment is that the narrow no decision and the
promises they were compelled to make now demand and require action. The referendum galvanised and excited Scots in a way that no
UK-wide election has done. Like it or not, unless they come up with a
winning devo-max settlement, every general election in Scotland will now be
dominated by the independence issue.
devo-max for Scotland means what for Wales, Northern Ireland and England?
And there lies just one of the problems - and one of the major stumbling
blocks to taking any action.
yes campaigners see independence as a process, not an event. And they are
right. The referendum is a beginning only. a permission to proceed. A
rematch is almost inevitable.
The biggest problem for the Westminster elites now is not just to decide
what to do about Scotland but, crucially, to do it without antagonising
English people – who might justly feel that the 10% no majority (5
votes in every 100) is now starting
to wag the dog of the rest of the UK.
Some of my friends will no doubt think differently but the yes campaign excited Scots to the possibilities of people power;
the no campaign showed the political classes at their worst with a campaign
based on negativity and manipulative celebrity "love-bombing."
Last week the Scots struck a blow for
democracy, with an unprecedented 97% voter registration for an election the
establishment had wearily declared nobody wanted. One way or another the old
empire is broken.
no campaign found enough momentum to win the day; but for Scotland this was
their day on the world stage. There will be more ahead.
final thought - having campaigned so actively for Scotland to remain in the
Union it is not without irony that Cameron will campaign in 2015 on a
promise for a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union -
where it is likely that the politicians in Westminster will be less active
in their attempts to save the Union. And to be honest the Europeans are
unlikely to miss us and will happily go on led by the French and Germans.)
The Guardian view on the Scottish referendum: a big moment that demands a
Scotland’s historic verdict was clear and decisive. So much so that, within
hours, it toppled the man who has dominated Scottish politics for a decade.
By 55% to 45%, a larger margin than polls had implied, Scots looked
independence squarely in the eye on Thursday and said no. Most parts of
Scotland voted no. The no side won 28 out of the 32 local government areas,
with the majorities particularly strong in the Borders and in the northern
islands. The vote sliced dramatically across electoral lines. SNP electoral
strongholds in the north-east overwhelmingly rejected independence, while
Labour’s deepest heartlands in the west equally emphatically embraced it.
The fact that Scotland’s largest and traditionally reddest city, Glasgow,
should have voted to leave the United Kingdom is particularly resonant, even
though the conclusive votes for the union in so much else of Scotland –
including Edinburgh, Aberdeen and the Highlands – delivered an
incontrovertible final result.
That was a welcome outcome. It should settle the issue beyond argument. A
narrow win for either side would have hung over Scotland for years to come,
perhaps dooming the Scots to have to revisit the issue too soon. That is now
unlikely, and was surely one of the reasons why Alex Salmond announced his
exit from the political stage Friday afternoon. Second, the whole process
was so positive. The energy and commitment of the campaign has dazzled not
just Scots themselves, but the rest of Britain too. Turnout on Thursday, at
85%, was awesome, a reprimand to fashionable political fatalism. The opening
of the franchise to 16- and 17-year-olds has also been thoroughly
vindicated. Third, Britain can indeed confront its many defects better
together than apart. The yes side may have run the better and certainly the
noisier campaign, but the no side had the more solidly based arguments.
Finally, the result, while decisive, was close enough to mean the minority
cannot be brushed aside. When 45% of your citizens tell you they want out,
they are saying that the system needs changing, as it must be and will be.
A new Scottish settlement
In April 1865, when General Grant met General Lee at Appomattox to bring the
American civil war to an end, the Union commander told his Confederate
counterpart that he wanted Lee’s men to keep their horses, because they
would need them for the spring ploughing. An equivalent reaching out and
healing spirit was required from Britain’s politicians on Friday after the
union’s near-death experience – and in many cases they rose to the occasion.
Mr Salmond was right to say that the SNP government would work with the UK
government to deliver promised new powers. Alistair Darling, who has had a
rollercoaster campaign, was right to stress what Scots have in common in a
victory speech which scrupulously avoided any triumphalism. And even David
Cameron, who has got many things wrong over Scotland, was right to make it
clear that he too was in the business of honouring campaign commitments on
the new powers. This is a good start.
Mr Cameron is one of many UK politicians who has promises to keep to
Scotland. It would always have been unforgivable if a no victory in the
referendum had led the UK government to pull up the duvet and forget about
Scotland. As it turned out, that option disappeared two weeks ago when an
opinion poll put the yes campaign briefly in front, triggering a furious
campaign fightback from the no side. The commitments to further powers that
were then set out by Gordon Brown were clearly influential with many voters.
They must now be honoured. But they need to be honoured in the same spirit
that the campaigners brought to the Scottish referendum – openly, generously
To the extent that Mr Cameron recognised this in his Downing Street
statement on Friday morning, he has done the first part of what he ought to
do. Scotland will now get further taxing and governing powers, he confirmed,
in addition to the new powers that are due to come into force in 2016. The
parties differ on important details of these powers, including the
proportion of revenue to be raised by the devolved parliament and the policy
areas to be brought under Holyrood’s control. Compromise on these
differences is surely achievable. What is crucial, in the Guardian’s view,
is that the new plans give greater control to Holyrood in as many areas as
practicable while continuing to give the UK government a meaningful role in
defending the things that bind the people of these islands together. That
means retaining at least some ties of social and tax policy as well as those
in defence and foreign affairs. Mr Brown’s ideas on this are a good basis on
which to begin detailed discussions.
The English question
The political parties are also committed to coming up with a wider set of
constitutional reforms affecting the rest of the UK. Reforms of this kind
are undoubtedly needed. But they must not be stitched up in private between
the parties. Most of all, they should not be driven through the Commons for
partisan advantage. This is now a real danger. Too many Conservative
politicians are far more interested in the politics of England than in those
of Scotland or the UK as a whole. This would be a terrible response to a
contest in Scotland which has again exposed the disconnect between the
political parties and the people – a problem that is particularly stark for
Labour, and that may get worse if the leftwing and popular Nicola Sturgeon
replaces Mr Salmond. It would be much better for parliament to embrace the
McKay commission’s sensible proposals on the handling of English affairs at
Westminster – proposals which involve no major legislation – while taking
time to get the bigger, possibly federal, approach right.
Characteristically, however, Mr Cameron seems to have decided to take the
partisan route, in the hope that he can calm his rightwing English
backbenchers and seize an initiative from Ukip. This is in every way the
wrong and short-sighted approach. The political parties should open up this
process not close it down. They should embrace proposals from the Institute
for Public Policy Research, the Green party and others for a constitutional
convention. The Scottish model from the 1990s, involving civil society
groups as well as parties, with the purpose of reaching a settled and shared
proposal, is a good pattern. This one could also draw, as IPPR has
suggested, on Irish citizens’ jury experience. It should not be rushed. The
better balanced the process, the better balanced the outcome.
In the end, though, we should not kid ourselves. The grievances that
animated this campaign were above all material rather than constitutional.
The economic model which dominates the lives of Scots is broken. Nationalism
offered an escape, but it was one with too many risks. Yet the economic
model is still broken and is still at the root of discontents that should
unite England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, not force them apart.
Guardian says no to Scottish independence
is the editorial headline - "The Guardian view on the Scottish referendum:
Britain deserves another chance - Nationalism is not the answer to social
injustice. For that fundamental reason, we urge Scots to vote no to
independence next week."
link to the editorial.
trouble with the Guardian's position is that it promises jam tomorrow - with
no evidence of any real change being forthcoming from Westminster's cosy
establishment. The Guardian argues that "in Britain, in Europe and even in
the world as a whole, we are indeed better together not better apart"
arguing that "voting no cannot be a vote against change, and there is now at
last the real hope that it can be a vote for reform and decentralisation in
Guardian suggests that we are better together - yet the Tories have promised
a referendum on Europe in 2017. The connection between these two events is
already intriguing. If Scotland votes yes, it’s possible that Scotland will
be knocking on Brussels’ door, asking to join the EEC, just as the residual
UK is heading out.
much for better together - the Tories argue that Britain is better together
but that Britain is better outside the European community. How does that
There is no plan for reform and decentralization in Britain. I am surprised
by the Guardian's position - but then this was the newspaper that in 2010
endorsed the LibDems as a way of keeping the Tories out of power. So their
finger is not exactly on the political pulse.
comments following on from the editorial are worth quoting:
Guardian is singing from the Establishment hymn sheet
Time and again the press, media and the UK establishment fail to understand
what this referendum is about. It's about self determination. It's about a
people getting the representation it votes for. It's about striving for
democracy. It's not about nationalism.
am disappointed that a paper which recognises the great social injustices in
this country would not support Scotland breaking away from the Westminster
elite who propagate and worsen them
From the paper that urged us to vote liberal to keep the Tories out....
Scottish vote isn't about nationalism. It is about freeing themselves from
the neo-liberal consensus in westminster, a consensus that this paper has
done very little to hold to account.
- I am from England, but the Yes camp has my moral support. I look forward
to the positive example they will provide to English political parties after
basically, the UK needs two major reforms (a political system which targets
inequality, rather than running for London and the City; and
federalism/localism), neither of which is realistically going to happen. And
Scotland should vote to stay in it ... why? There's nothing approaching a
case for the union from Scotland's perspective here, only a hint of why EWNI
might be worse off without Scotland
Our obligation to the memory of the victims of 9/11
11 September 2014 - Jon Snow (Channel 4 news)
Thirteen years on have we learned from 9/11? Could any of us have imagined
that the attack on America by mainly Saudi-born radicals on this very day
thirteen years ago, would represent one of the most defining events of
From my own experience reporting sporadically across the region for over
three decades, my fear is that we have not learned.
For most of the years since the second world war the contract has been
clear: Gulf oil for the west in exchange for Western weapons, security,
banking and commerce – no questions asked. Across the west our generous
gates have allowed the most radical Muslim preachers to criss-cross the
globe carrying their Wahabi messages of extremism.
Pakistan, once so recognisable a legacy of Empire, now represents the most
unstable nuclear power in the world – its landscape dotted with radical
Madrassas and Mosques. A whole generation of Muslim children far beyond
Saudi borders, from Birmingham to Bombay, know no other view of the world
than the Saudi-spawned Wahabi view of their faith.
11 US r w Our obligation to the memory of the victims of 9/11
Thirteen years after 9/11, an English speaking voice articulates the
beheading of an American hostage. There are hundreds of western Muslims in
the ranks of Islamic State (IS).
In waging unwise and horrific war themselves in Iraq, western powers have
forfeited their capacity overtly to bolster moderate regional forces in
Syria and Iraq.
In spite of the warrior pose President Obama deployed on Wednesday night,
his instinct is still for the regional powers around Syria and Iraq to
resolve the Islamic State madness themselves.
One is tempted to ask how many of the 1,700 military jets that the
collective west has sold to Saudi and Gulf states down the years, have yet
left the ground in anger against IS. How many of the Sandhurst trained
officers from the region have yet been spotted in the field?
We may be part of IS’s target, just as New York and Washington were the
targets of other regional radicals on 9/11.
But this time those same regional states from which the 9/11 gang sprang,
know that they are now the targets too.
Watching regional events from Iran in the last week, I observed a quiet
acceptance that the Shia forces in Iraq needed leadership, strategy, and
gumption that only Iran’s revolutionary guard and ancillary resources could
provide – and providing it they are.
And let us not forget what a top Iranian Foreign Ministry official told me
which I reported several years ago; “you think we sit here in Iran fearing
Israel, or America. We don’t, our fear is the radical implosion of Pakistan
and nuclear implications of radical Sunni Muslims with their hands on
nuclear weapons firing them at Shia Iran”.
There is a fire raging in Arabia today, which we in the west are not
competent to extinguish. There is regional power to do the job, and we
should not interfere with them getting on with it.
But those same regional powers should know, should even be told, that they
cannot enjoy our friendship, our open gates, our Mayfair Hotels, our city
finance unconditionally. Our condition must surely be that they distinguish
themselves from the extremist forces that some of them knowingly, or
unknowingly, have spawned, and deal with the effluent that is IS.
If the 3,000 dead of 9/11 are to be remembered with honour, we have an
obligation to get this crisis right this time.
the interests of balance this is today's better together editorial in the
Scotland’s fateful choice. The case for union is overwhelming. The path of
separation is a fool’s errand
Today has felt like the beast awakening - London politicians and media
suddenly realizing that they are about to preside over potentially the
biggest event in the history of the British Isles since WW2. Sky News has
Kay McBurley on the streets of Edinburgh; the three stooges came for a
photo-op; MacPrescott talked about a combined Scotland-England football team
beating the Germans (he is delusional). The FT reminds us of our shared
history and hints at the potential economic issues ahead. Mark Carney, a
Canadian, tells Scotland, it cannot have the pound basically saying that
currency union is not possible. Yet despite is flaws (mainly due to poor
oversight and weak rules enforcement) the Euro works well for a much larger
ad disparate group of nations.
It all feels a bit desperate; after years/decades of being taken for granted
the rallying cry from an embarrassed and complacent Westminster is please
don't leave me and we promise (though we do not know how) to make it up to
Even if the vote next week is "no" the cause of independence has found its
voice and I am not sure that can be calmed by any form of devo-max. It has
also sent a message across the rest of Britain that the current political
system is unsustainable....
Better together keeps reminding me of a Rick Astley song - another reason to
Brits, booze and airplanes can be a toxic mix
Dubai court today heard that an airline passenger threatened to kill an
Emirates Airline flight attendant after she refused to serve him more
Briton AM, 40, assaulted the attendant before telling her he would chop her
into pieces, Dubai Criminal Court was told on Wednesday.
The incident on June 2 took place on board a Dubai-bound Emirates flight
The defendant ordered alcohol before take off, and then again 20 minutes
into the journey, said prosecutors.
“He was eating and throwing away food on the floor, then eating off the
floor,” said BS, 30, an Indian flight attendant.
“I went to him and asked him to return to his seat and have his meal there.
I then brought a garbage bag and started picking up the food he threw away.
“He also threw food on passengers around him and jumped from his seat to the
aisle and started making a mess. Some passengers asked to change seats from
near him,” she said.
As she cleaned up after him, said B S, A M pulled her shirt so hard she felt
pain. When she asked him to stop touching her, he got up from his seat and
began insulting her.
“He stood up and told me I was trash and a sex slave,” she said, adding AM
also insulted some of her colleagues.
The verbal abuse continued, with AM threatening to slap BS, kill her and
chop her up if she did not provide more alcohol. Fellow attendant EM, 26,
from Egypt said: “I was ordered to attend to the problem and, when I did, I
saw him jumping on his seat and pulling BS from her shirt, then insulting
her with very bad words.”
After the other members of the crew tried and failed to calm AM down, the
court heard, he proceeded to the toilet where he lit a cigarette, setting
off the fire alarm and alarming his fellow passengers.
AM fell asleep shortly before the plane landed in Dubai, though not before
making further insults when told he would be met by police upon his arrival,
court records showed.
He denies all the charges, including one of illegal consumption of alcohol.
is it always the Brits - there is something toxic about the British, alcohol
why do airlines even serve alcohol? Drunk passengers are a hazard in an
emergency and regularly cause unnecessary unpleasantness for crew and other
passengers. Airlines banned smoking. Now ban alcohol. It really is not so
hard to travel for 8 hours without a drink.
finally why is he being charged for illegal consumption of alcohol. That
makes no sense at all. Emirates serves alcohol; indeed almost encourages its
use. It is also unlikely that the passenger ever expected to enter Dubai as
he was presumably seeking to transit to another destination.
consuming alcohol is illegal on a flight to Dubai then Emirates is an
accessory to a crime that is committed tens of thousands of times every day.
The case was adjourned until September 24.
Preliminary Dutch report offers nothing new
first official report on the fatal 17 July 2014 crash of Malaysia Airlines
Flight 17 near the Ukraine-Russia border concludes what many already
suspected: It was struck in mid-air by "high-energy objects from outside the
But the preliminary report released by the Dutch Safety Board on Tuesday did
not say that the plane was hit by a missile, and it did not point the finger
Dutch Safety Board's report will offer little consolation to the families of
the victims. Dutch investigators have not been able to access the crash
site. They have not been able to examine significant parts of the wreckage.
report is based on evidence from photographs; discussions with Ukrainian and
Malaysian investigators who have accessed the site and on analysisi of the
flight data and cockpit voice recorders.
likely explanation of the crash near the village of Hrabove, which killed
298 people, remains that the plane was shot down by a Buk missile fired by
rebel forces with or without Russian support.
report says quite simply that "flight MH17 ... broke up in the air probably
as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy
objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside ... There are no
indications that the MH17 crash was caused by a technical fault or by
actions of the crew."
"The cockpit voice recorder, the flight data recorder and data from air
traffic control all suggest that flight MH17 proceeded as normal until
13:20:03 (UTC), after which it ended abruptly. A full listening of the
communications among the crew members in the cockpit recorded on the cockpit
voice recorder revealed no signs of any technical faults or an emergency
situation. Neither were any warning tones heard in the cockpit that might
have pointed to technical problems. The flight data recorder registered no
aircraft system warnings, and aircraft engine parameters were consistent
with normal operation during the flight. The radio communications with
Ukrainian air traffic control confirm that no emergency call was made by the
cockpit crew. The final calls by Ukrainian air traffic control made between
13.20:00 and 13.22:02 (UTC) remained unanswered."
CVR transcript is the saddest part of the report.
"The pattern of wreckage on the ground suggests that the aircraft split into
pieces during flight (an in-flight break up). Based on the available
maintenance history the airplane was airworthy when it took off from
Amsterdam and there were no known technical problems. The aircraft was
manned by a qualified and experienced crew."
"As yet it has not been possible to conduct a detailed study of the
wreckage. However, the available images show that the pieces of wreckage
were pierced in numerous places. The pattern of damage to the aircraft
fuselage and the cockpit is consistent with that which may be expected from
a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from
outside. It’s likely that this damage resulted in a loss of structural
integrity of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight break up. This also
explains the abrupt end to the data registration on the recorders, the
simultaneous loss of contact with air traffic control and the aircraft’s
disappearance from radar."
board's report is the first one coming out of the official investigation
into the crash, and its cautious assessment is also due to the fact that the
Dutch aviation investigators who made the report have yet to gain full
access to the site where MH17 crashed to the ground, due to the ongoing
conflict in the region.
report, while not fully conclusive in establishing the cause of the crash,
should but will not end some misleading, and in some cases offensive,
The report is clear... there was no pilot error. No aircraft problems. No
warnings. No issue with flight route.
Reality - 298 people were murdered. Probably not intentionally. Mistaken
identity and a trigger happy, untrained, missile crew. But the families
deserve to know what really happened. Someone or some group does know. If
they had any respect for the bereaved the truth would be known.
The initial report is here:
Dutch Safety Board Preliminary Report on MH17 Crash
Spiritual spruce-up for Thai PM’s compound
9 September 2014 The Financial Times
Thailand’s ruling junta has pledged to wage war on government waste – but
that hasn’t stopped it setting aside a little money to make sure it can
rule in suitable style.
As General Prayuth Chan-ocha, coup leader and prime minister, prepares to
host his first cabinet meeting on Tuesday in an office in the midst of a
near-$8m revamp, officials are playing down reports that the changes are
driven by feng shui.
Perhaps as revealing as the disclosures is the muted public reaction to
them in a country where a military that has long portrayed itself as the
guardian of the nation does more or less as it pleases, including
forbidding criticism of the four and a half month old junta’s actions.
Reverence for the supernatural in the everyday has also long loomed large
in Thai society and politics, making even Gen Prayuth’s assertion last
week that his opponents were now targeting him with black magic an
unremarkable addition to a long tradition.
“No matter which administration is in power, one constant seems to be
their belief in superstition,” tweeted Pravit Rojanaphruk, a journalist
detained for almost a week by the junta after May’s coup, on Monday. “Not
a good sign for Thailand.”
The makeover of the prime minister’s vast Bangkok canalside offices and
residence, whose large grounds host state occasions such as the king’s
birthday, comes courtesy of a $7.9m provision in a junta budget that saw
funding slashed for departments including tourism and finance. The refurb
had already caused some raised eyebrows late last week, when government
officials unveiled the installation of almost 200 multimedia conference
units, complete with anti-snooping software, at a cost of as much as
Now fresh claims have emerged from a reporter historically close to the
military of feng shui masters offering to oversee a modernisation spree
that has included the replacement of the prime ministerial chair and the
building of a Buddhist shrine. Red flowers have allegedly been replaced
with yellow blooms, the colour of Thailand’s monarchy and of a
pro-military conservative political movement that has long battled “red
shirt” supporters of the ousted civilian government.
A government spokeswoman played down the reports, saying the compound’s
refurbishment was planned under the toppled administration and was needed
because the building was old. While some of the claimed alterations were
“beyond the truth”, she said a new chair had been designed by the prime
minister’s secretariat “to be more unique and suitable for the leader” and
that the main building was being repainted yellow only because it had
always been that colour. However, she said she had not yet spotted any
yellow flowers and there was “no sign of feng shui as now”.
What is undeniable is that Gen Prayuth has in the past shown a taste for
auspicious symbols, such as being acclaimed as prime minister by the
country’s puppet parliament on August 21 – a good number for a man who
served in the 21st Infantry and was born on March 21.
And the sprucing up of the premier’s offices also adds to the weight of
opinion that the army chief turned premier plans to stick around, as he
himself hinted in his latest weekly television broadcast to the nation
“You do not have to love us a lot,” he signed off, echoing the words of a
famous Thai folk singer. “But please love us for a long time.”
Burj Al Mars
9 September 2014
A law formally establishing the UAE Space Agency has been
signed by Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE.
The agency was announced in July with the goal of sending an unmanned
mission to Mars by 2021.
The law, which was published in the Official Gazette, stated that the
agency would have its headquarters in Abu Dhabi and have a branch in
The first meeting of the UAE Space Agency was held in July and was led by
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, who
directed all government institutions to provide maximum support.
The unmanned probe will travel more than 60 million kilometres in nine
months and will be launched to coincide with the UAE’s 50th anniversary.
“We aim for the UAE to be among the top countries in aerospace by 2021,”
Sheikh Khalifa has said. “We have a great belief in the talents of our
young people and the strongest determination, the greatest ambitions and a
clear plan to reach our targets.”
DWC plans announced
8 September 2014
It is late - by about 10 years - but at last there is some
direction about the expansion of and future for the AED120bn (US$ 32bn)
expansion of Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central (DWC) which
will ultimately accommodate more than 200 million passengers a year.
Originally planned for initial completion by around
2015/2016 the build out of the new airport was delayed dramatically by the
2008/2009 financial crisis. Instead the existing Dubai international
airport has been expanded well beyond its original capacity with a view to
generating cashflow to fund future construction at DWC.
Al-Maktoum International airport was launched before the
global financial crisis hit Dubai in 2009, with plans to build the world's
largest airport, featuring a 160-million-passenger capacity and six
The ambitious plan appeared to have been put on the back burner due to the
crisis, and the airport instead opened operations for cargo only in 2010,
while small passenger operations began in October 2013 after repeated
The development is anticipated to be the biggest airport project in the
world and will be built in two phases. The first phase includes two
satellite buildings with a collectively capacity of 120 million passengers
annually, accommodate 100 A380 aircraft at any one time and will take
between six and eight years to complete. The entire development will cover
an area of 56 square kilometres.
For what its worth I do not like the design. Every
passenger will need to take a train to a remote gate. Inevitably this
means escalators and elevators, waits for over-crowded trains that are
standing room only and at busy times some healthy pushing and shoving -
together with a longer walk than the designers suggest.
It is not just the airport build that is critical and will
need to commence at the earliest date. There are also plans for rapid rail
transit from the city and surrounding area to the airport that are under
preparation with the Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority.
The rail connections are critical given the airport's
remote location from downtown Dubai - being some 60kms away from DXB.
At the moment DWC has a single runway and a temporary
terminal with hard stands only and a capacity of about 5 million
passengers a year. There are only a handful of passenger flights each day.
The airport authorities suggest that the new airport’s uniqueness lies in a radically new
approach to ensure that the latest technology and efficient processes will
cut the time spent completing travel formalities and reduce walking
distances, enabling passengers to make fast and efficient connections
between hundreds of destinations worldwide.
The decision follows months of planning by the key stakeholders in the
aviation sector, including Dubai Airports, Dubai Airports Engineering
Projects, Emirates airline and dnata, to ensure that a design was selected
that facilitates the future growth of Dubai’s aviation industry.
The expectation is that Emirates would relocate their intercontinental hub operations to DWC by the
mid-2020s. Today's announcement makes no mention of the future plans for
the existing airfield at DXB.
Timing will be critical. DXB has seen capacity maximised
with the construction of Concourse A (completed in January 2013), the
doubling of capacity at Terminal 2 (by the end 2014), the construction of
Concourse D (2015), Concourse C upgrade (after completion of Concourse D)
to accommodate Emirates as the sole user, combined with associated stand
upgrades, enhancements to airfield and air traffic control capacity, as
well as the upgrading of existing facilities to improve the passenger
The trouble is there is no room for a third runway and the
existing runways are too close to allow simultaneous operations. So DXB
will reach a limit of around 100 million passengers a year.
Dubai Airports expects passenger numbers at DXB and DWC to
exceed 100m passengers a year in 2017. Therefore passenger facilities will
also continue to be expanded at Dubai World Central (DWC) to accommodate
traffic that cannot be accommodated at DXB. Dubai airports is forecasting
126 million passengers in 2020 which means DWC will need to accommodate
over 20 million a year by that date. That becomes a signficant operation.
It does not take much maths to realise that at 120m
passengers a year when opened DWC will not be able to handle all passenger
traffic into Dubai which will require DXB to remain open. The logical move
is for Emirates and flyDubai to operate from one airport and all other
carriers from the other airport. Since EK's business is substantially
about taking passengers from A to B via a change at its Dubai hub it will
make more sense for EK and flyDubai to occupy the new airport.
Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, thanked Sheikh Mohammed for his
visionary support of the project, and described the new airport as a vital
investment in the future of Dubai. He confirmed that the aviation sector
was projected to remain a cornerstone of Dubai’s economy, and was expected
to support more than 322,000 jobs and contribute 28 per cent of Dubai’s
GDP by 2020.
“Our future lies at DWC. The announcement of this AED120bn development of
DWC is both timely and a strong endorsement of Dubai’s aviation industry.
With limited options for further growth at Dubai International, we are
taking that next step to securing our future by building a brand new
airport that will not only create the capacity we will need in the coming
decades but also provide state of the art facilities that revolutionise
the airport experience on an unprecedented scale,” said Griffiths.
Dubai Airports have launches a new website giving more
details of the planning for DWC.
The Dubai Airports
Future of Aviation PDF
Ultimate Airport Dubai is back and hopefully better
8 September 2014
Well the first series looked more like an advertisement for
Emirates Airline. There was barely a mention of Terminals 1 and 2 and who
would have known that flyDubai is a hometown airline.
Like it or not it did appear that there was a very heavy
hand controlling what we were allowed to see in Ultimate Airport Dubai
season 1. But here we go again. National Geographic Channels International (NGCI) has
selected Arrow Media to produce a second series of Ultimate Airport Dubai,
following outstanding ratings for the show’s first season across
territories in Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.
Ultimate Airport Dubai will air its new 10-part season later this year on
National Geographic Channel in 170 countries and 45 languages.
In Ultimate Airport Dubai, NGCI goes behind-the-scenes of Dubai
International, the world’s second busiest airport for international
With unprecedented access to all facets of the airport season two follows the renovation of both the airport’s runways
– a tricky enterprise that has the airport operating using only one runway
for several months with huge pressure to finish the build on time. The
series will be at the heart of passenger operations, customs, the control
tower and flight services to see how the teams cope during a particularly
stressful and demanding time.
Actually the airport fared rather well with a significant
reduction in flight delays.
“Ultimate Airport Dubai is a great hit for us, which rated in all markets.
The show offers a fantastic blend of airport docu-soap and mega
engineering show – all set against the backdrop of a highly modern, 21st
century city filled with exciting innovation. The high level of access,
which the production team secured makes this show different and we are
delighted to have it back in our schedules,” said Hamish Mykura, executive
vice president and head of international content.
A President among the fossils
6 September 2014
The struggle for Hong Kong
The territory’s citizens must not give up demanding full democracy—for
their sake and for China’s
6 September 2014 - The Economist
Chinese officials have called it a “leap forward” for democracy in Hong
Kong. Yet their announcement on August 31st of plans to allow, for the
first time, every Hong Kong citizen to vote for the territory’s leader has
met only anger and indifference. Joy was conspicuously absent. This is not
because Hong Kong’s citizens care little for the right to vote, but
because China has made it abundantly clear that the next election for Hong
Kong’s chief executive, due in 2017, will be rigged. The only candidates
allowed to stand will be those approved by the Communist Party in Beijing,
half a continent away.
At its worst, this risks provoking a disaster which even China cannot
want. Democrats are planning protests. It is unclear how many people will
join in, but the fear is that the territory’s long history of peaceful
campaigning for political reform will give way to skirmishes with police,
mass arrests and possibly even intervention by the People’s Liberation
Army. That would disrupt one of Asia’s wealthiest and most orderly
economies, and set China against the West. But even if, as is likely, such
a calamity is avoided, this leap sideways is a huge missed opportunity not
just for Hong Kong but also for the mainland. A chance to experiment with
the sort of local democracy that might have benefited all of China has
China’s announcement marks the end of an era. No longer is it possible to
argue that the development of democracy in Hong Kong can forge ahead even
in the absence of political reform in Beijing. The arrangements, set out
by China’s party-controlled parliament, the National People’s Congress,
were needed because of a pledge to grant the territory a “high degree of
autonomy” and eventually “universal suffrage” when it took over from
Britain in 1997. To most people, that meant having the right to choose
their leader themselves.
China has stuck to the letter of its promise, but not the spirit. In 2012
the chief executive was appointed by a 1,200-strong committee stacked with
the party’s yes-men from among Hong Kong’s business and political elite.
The proposal for 2017 is that a similar committee will select candidates
who will then be presented to all Hong Kong’s voters for election. In
theory the committee could allow through candidates of many political
stripes. In practice, pessimism is more than justified. Only two or three
candidates will be allowed, and each must win the support of at least half
of the committee. Under this arrangement, democracy will mean little more
in Hong Kong than it does elsewhere in China, where every adult citizen
can vote for local legislators—as long as the party approves.
This is bad for Hong Kong. The territory’s four leaders since the handover
in 1997 were all chosen in Beijing and rubber-stamped into office. All of
them, including the incumbent Leung Chun-ying, proved highly unpopular.
Under a government in thrall to Beijing, the press has been subdued by
intimidation and by pressure from advertisers. The judiciary fears that it
may face a test of loyalty to the mainland. Some Hong Kongers complain
that even the postal service is compromised—it refused to deliver leaflets
urging civil disobedience.
The story may not be over. Activists in Hong Kong have vowed to launch a
campaign of civil disobedience which they call, disarmingly, “Occupy
Central with Love and Peace”, but whose declared mission is to paralyse
the territory’s main financial district with sit-ins. This would be the
first large-scale flouting of the law by the pro-democracy camp.
The activists’ aim is correct and their courage impressive, but their
tactics may be mistaken. If the unrest gets out of control and troops are
deployed, it would be a calamity for Hong Kong—and would probably set back
the activists’ cause. Better to stick to what the democrats have always
done best: staging the kind of peaceful protests that have made the
territory a model of rational political discourse in a part of the world
where it is often sorely lacking. And there is another form of peaceful
protest available: Hong Kong’s legislators can reject China’s proposals,
even though that would mean reverting to the equally undemocratic system
used in 2012. Only a few dozen democrats now sit in the electoral college.
They should, in future, boycott it. There is no point in propagating a
If Hong Kong’s people keep marching without damaging the territory’s
economy, China may well simply shrug. But not necessarily. It was thanks
in part to a huge and orderly protest in 2003 that Hong Kong’s puppet
government shelved plans to introduce an anti-subversion bill and that the
hapless chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, stepped down. Rather than break
the law, Hong Kong’s democrats would do better to wield the weapon of
But it is not only in Hong Kong that China’s decision to strangle the
territory’s democratic aspirations will be felt. China’s government has
alienated opinion in Taiwan, which it dreams of bringing under its
umbrella in the same way. The party appears to have concluded that the
damage done to the prospects of union with Taiwan is less important than
the threat that one of its opponents might win an election in Hong Kong
and stoke demands across China for political reform. The territory would
also become independent in all but name. That, the government worries,
would encourage separatists around China’s periphery, from Tibet to
But discontent is growing all over China, and Beijing cannot just sit on
it. The huge new middle class is becoming increasingly frustrated with its
powerlessness over issues such as education, health care, the environment
and property rights. In terms of their day-to-day worries, mainlanders
have a lot in common with Hong Kong’s citizens. China’s government is
going to have to work out a way of satisfying their aspirations for more
control over their lives. Hong Kong would have been a good place to start.
Xi Jinping, the party chief and president, had the opportunity to use Hong
Kong as a test-bed for political change in China. Had he taken this
opportunity, he might have gone down in history as a true reformer.
Instead, he has squandered it.
NATO's Welsh invasion
5 September 2014
So the two day NATO summit in Cardiff is over. There are 28
NATO member countries though the meeting was attended by leaders from 60
countries. Seven warships, including the destroyer HMS Duncan. An army of
10,000 assorted police and guards. A twelve kilometer ring of steel around
the Celtic Manor venue and Cardiff Castle.
A city under lock down.
A banquet in Cardiff castle.
This summit was originally called to discuss the withdrawal
of NATO forces from Afghanistan after 13 years of fighting Taliban
militants there. There are questions over how many, if any, foreign
soldiers will remain after the 2014 deadline. There are even bigger
questions about Afghanistan's future.
Instead the conference saw statesmen making empty threats at Russia and
Islamic State, who are currently dismembering Ukraine and Iraq, two
nations the west claimed only recently to have “liberated”.
The Russian intrusion into Eastern Ukraine may have
re-enforced NATO and re-established its purpose. Article five of Nato's
constitution says an attack on one member country is an attack on all
member countries. Ukraine of course is a partner rather than a member of
Nato; a convenience for Nato.
But Nato's defence forces have been stimulated by a recent
article by Russian strategist Andrey Piontkovsky which argues that Mr
Putin's aims were "the maximum extension of the Russian world, the
destruction of Nato, and the discrediting and humiliation of the US".
It added that Nato countries such as the US and Germany would not stand by
the Baltic republics, and that, if necessary, the Kremlin would carry out
a limited nuclear strike in Europe in order to break apart the two sides
of the Atlantic alliance.
While Mr Piontkovsky was not writing in any official role - far from it -
his pronouncements were considered a sufficiently accurate assessment of
some of the more extreme thinking in the Kremlin.
Meanwhile Ukraine and Russia have negotiated a ceasefire;
agreed by Russia on the very day of the Nato summit just as Nato was
announcing new sanctions. There will be no ceasefire. Neither side is
going to back down now.
Meanwhile delegates ploughed on with discussions on the
Middle Easat but without the presence of any Arab leaders who could
provide support or balance. After all the west's incursions into Libya and
Iraq have not exactly provided for stability or peace. Instead they appear
to have fermented extremism.
Obama's in his closing statment said that "we are going to
achieve our goal. We are going to degrade and ultimately defeat [Isis],
the same way that we have gone after al Qaeda. You initially push them
back, you systematically degrade their capabilities, you narrow their
scope of action, you slowly shrink the space, the territory that they may
control, you take out their leadership, and over time they are not able to
conduct the same kinds of terrorist attacks as they once could."
Mark Urban for the BBC noted on twitter an "interesting
rumour on margin of #NATOSummitUK No UK bombing in Iraq until after
Scotland votes. Seen as possible gift to Salmond."
Somehow it feels like more talk in a world that in 2014
appears to be more dangerous than at any time since the cold war.
So our leaders stopped talking and had a dinner instead.
Thursday night's three-course meal kicked off with smoked salmon from the
Black Mountain Smokery and Cardigan Bay Crab served with avocado and lemon
For their main, the world leaders enjoyed roast saddle of Brecon Beacon
lamb with Welsh new potatoes, heirloom tomato and Wye Valley asparagus.
The meal was finished off with a jar of Welsh fruit summer pudding and
Neal Yard’s Creamery creme fraiche.
As a reward for attending heads of state and government
were also given bumper willow baskets packed full to the brim of gifts.
They include Welsh cakes, whiskey, Welsh rugby balls, a book of selected
poems, woollen journals and even socks.
There really was little time to discuss anything of
substance let alone agree anything decisive. Next time try Skype.
Playing down the pomp and dealing with the circumstances would do so much
more to impress the people of Europe and the Americas.
New statement on fight against ISIS from UAE
5 September 2014
This is a just released statement from the United Arab Emirates (UAE)..
about the fight against ISIS.. and Islamic extremism overall. (statement
comes from the UAE Ambassador to the USA)
This is strong language from the UAE which is the first Arab country to
issue such a statement.
FROM UAE: Statement of Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba On Challenging Regional
Islamic extremism is a Middle East problem but it is quickly becoming the
world's problem too. It is a transnational challenge, the most
destabilizing and dangerous global force since fascism.
For certain, the United States and the West have a big interest in this
battle. But no one has more at stake than the UAE and other moderate
countries in the region that have rejected the regressive Islamist creed
and embraced a different, forward-looking path.
Now is the time to act. The UAE is ready to join the international
community in an urgent, coordinated and sustained effort to confront a
threat that will, if unchecked, have global ramifications for decades to
Any action must begin with a clear plan for direct intervention against
ISIS but must address the other dangerous extremist groups in the region.
It is also critical to tackle the support networks, the entire militant
ideological and financial complex that is the lifeblood of extremism.”
Something incredible is happening in Scotland
1 September 2014
You could tell it was getting serious when Gordon Brown made friends with
Alistair Darling; and when the Scottish Daily Mail began running doom
headlines about the future of the Union. I don't know whether the
narrowing of the poll lead for the no campaign was just a blip, but it
doesn't feel like it.
Something incredible is happening in Scotland. The little pin badges – Yes
or No – that people wear are sparking open conversation: in the pub, the
swimming baths, the post office queue. An entire country of 5 million
people is asking itself, sometimes quite vociferously, what it wants to
It's even more incredible if you consider the possible outcome. If enough
people tick the yes box, then come 2016 the flag of Great Britain will
have to go minus a whole colour.
It probably won't happen. But few south of the border realise how volatile
the outcome is. Yes, the polls reflect bookie William Hill's confidence
that there's just a one in five chance of a majority for independence –
but the variables are bigger than for most political events.
Having spent last week in Glasgow, I would say the biggest variable is
going to be turnout. When political enthusiasm reaches the relatively
apolitical world of the council estate, the pub, the nightclub and
energises people, turnout can do weird things to poll predictions. Alex
Salmond claimed there would be 80% turnout. I think the chances are even
higher – and if the polls actually cope with such volume, every percentage
point above normal introduces volatility not captured by normal polling.
At the Sub Club, a world-famous nightspot in Glasgow, the debate was
remarkably coherent, even at 2am among the intoxicated smokers huddled
outside. If I could distil the vox pops among those under-30s to a single
thought it would be: "We want to run our own country."
They have heard all the dire macro-economic warnings – about the pound,
the banks, the debt, the non-reliability of oil money. Set against the
idea of making a clean break with Westminster politics and neoliberal
economics, these are risks many of them are prepared to take.
One reason the political class is not hearing the debate properly is that,
on each side, there are mismatched political leaderships and tin-eared
campaign groups. On the yes side, many of the young people I spoke to
despise Alex Salmond. On the no side, it's fair to say Alistair Darling is
not hugely representative of a coalition that includes people from the
Orange lodges and the Scottish Tories, and the gay clubbers I met who were
firm no voters.
If, on the morning of 19 September, we wake up and that 4/1 horse of
independence has come in, the levels of shock in official circles will be
extreme. The Conservatives will have presided over the breakup of the
Union. Even compared with handing Zimbabwe to Zanu-PF, and Hong Kong to
the Chinese Communist party, that will be a major psychological moment.
Even more traumatised will be Labour. The prospect of a majority Labour
government at Westminster after 2016 will be remote. The party in Scotland
will likely go into meltdown, with a Podemos-style left emerging among the
pro-independence Labour camp, the Greens and the progressives around
groups like Common Weal.
There will be immediate ramifications beyond the UK: in Madrid and
Brussels there will be outcry; in Barcelona public joy; in Moscow quiet
But the official narrative does not allow us to consider the possibility
of a yes victory. The political class – and I include Salmond's SNP in
this – is like the tightroper wobbling on a wire between two skyscrapers.
Its members can't allow themselves to think of the consequence of falling
off. The old certainties will be so dead anyway that it will scarcely
What we can say, already, is that the no campaign – for all its resilience
in the opinion polls – failed in its plan to turn the referendum into an
issue of macro-economic risk. If it has worked, it is among the older
population and not the majority of the young.
The most coherent of the young people I spoke to understood the
macro-economic risk. But they weighed it against two increasingly
intolerable burdens: the inability of Scotland's relatively left-leaning
electorate to influence Westminster; and the inability to budge Scottish
Labour away from the free-market and pro-austerity policies associated
with Brown and Darling.
What this means is, even if the yes vote fails on 18 September, scoring
somewhere in the mid 40s, the pattern of all future Scottish independence
debates is set.
Independence has become a narrative of the people against big government;
about an energised Scottish street, bar and nightclub versus the sleazy
elite of official politics.
And in response, the left part of the pro-union camp has had to develop
its own, "more radical than Darling" rationales. It's not something you
hear from the Westminster parties, but via social media I have picked up a
strong meme among Scottish trade union members that independence under the
SNP is "not radical enough to bother".
Once established, political psychologies like this do not go away. History
shows they intensify until something gives, and at some point it is
usually the borders of a nation state.
What we know already is that a significant number of Scottish people have
a dream: where statehood, social justice and cultural self-confidence fit
together into a clear and popular project.
The rest of Britain may be stunned, but should not be surprised if the
enthusiasm for this dream propels enough people into the voting booths to
give the yes camp a narrow victory.
If it happens there'll be a lot of finger pointing, but it's obvious in
advance where the biggest problem lies: it's become impossible to express
opposition to free market economics via the main Westminster parties.
Some English and Welsh voters think they're doing it by voting Ukip. But
the referendum offered Scottish voters a way to do it by destroying the
union. Whether you think that's illusory or mistaken, it's formed the
narrative on the streets.
That's where we should be watching now; the high-camp shouting match of
men in suits is a diversion.
Paul Mason is economics editor at Channel 4 News. Follow him @paulmasonnews
Grumpy, green, yellow, old and male...and unelected
1 September 2014
Grumpy, unelected. old men. It is hard to find a better
description of Thailand's junta appointed cabinet.
The new cabinet is dominated by the military junta who have
13 Ministers including the PM and control over most of the key positions
ranging from PM, Defence, Education, Transport, Interior, Justice, Foreign
Affairs and Commerce (only key ones they don’t have are Public Health,
Finance, and Agriculture). Essentially, Prayuth and his clique dominate.
Prayuth’s former superior General Prawit Wongsuwan is deputy PM and
Defence Minister, while another of his ex-superiors, General Anupong
Paochinda, is Interior Minister.
Four of the premier’s former classmates have portfolios. General Dapong
Ratanasuwan was appointed Natural Resources and Environment Minister,
General Tanasak Patimapragorn is deputy PM and Foreign Minister, Gen
Chatchai Sarikalya was named Commerce Minister, and permanent secretary
for defence General Surasak Kanjanarat is the Labour Minister.
Prayuth’s ‘junior’ friends from pre-cadet school days, Navy chief ADM
Narong Pipatanasai and Air Force chief ACM Prajin Juntong, were appointed
Education Minister and Transport Minister respectively.
The Navy Chief as Education Minister will oversee a
curriculum that goes back to traditional Thai values - ie know your place;
rather than develops critical talents for a globalised world.
The premier’s subordinates from the armed forces who will help him
administer the country include deputy Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr,
the Deputy Defence Minister, and assistant Army chief General Paiboon
Koomchaya, the Justice Minister.
Other posts are taken up by former bureaucrats mostly with
strong yellow shirt credentials"
Don Pramudwinai (Deputy Foreign Minister) He was a career civil servant
with the Foreign Ministry. His final posting was as Thai Ambassador to the
UN. An experience diplomat but still number two to General Tanasak
Patimapragorn; appointing a general as the Foreign Minister is hardly
going to help the junta's credibility with the international community
though no dount Burma and China will approve.
Sommai Phasee (Finance Minister) Was Deputy Finance Minister in the amt
appointed post 2006 coup Surayud government.
In each of the Education, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Transport and
Commerce ministries the junta controls the main minister position, but a
current/former civil servant is the deputy.
Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul is Tourism and Sports Minister and was previously.
She was Chairperson of Toshiba Thailand. Strange appointment as she
appears to have no relevant experience.
Wissanu Krea-Ngam is Deputy Prime Minister and was a NLA member and
Constitutional Drafter of the 2007 Constitution .
MR Pridiyathorn Devakula is Deputy Prime Minister; he was spokesperson for
PM’s Office under Chatchai, Deputy Minister of Commerce under the Anand
and Suchina governments, BOT Governor under Thaksin, and Finance Minister
in Surayud government.
There are noticeably few people from the business world. The cabinet are
almost all 60+ years old and are current and former bureaucrats and those
who have been in the sphere of the bureaucracy and periphery of politics.
It is a very Bangkok-centric cabinet. There is no room for alternative
It is basically a rubber stamp cabinet - the NCPO is in
charge and that is where decisions will be made.
Thailand's military run government
31 August 2014
So Thailand has a new government with the King's
endorsement of junta leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha’s new cabinet.
Military men are in charge of almost every key ministry.
Not one of them has been elected.
Prayuth, who took power in a May 22 coup, placed 11 military officers in
the 32-member cabinet, including as defense minister, foreign minister,
interior minister, commerce minister, education minister and justice
minister. The new finance minister is a civilian, Sommai Phasee, who was
part of the government installed by the Thai army following Thailand’s
last coup in 2006.
The appointments, which include two former army chiefs from Prayuth’s
faction of the military, indicate that Prayuth will continue to rely on
those close to his junta.
Even those not from the military are “at least people who are devoted to
one side of the political divide and see themselves as more righteous
leaders,” said Andrew Stotz, chief executive officer of A. Stotz
Investment Research in Bangkok. “These people may see a rebalancing of
power as a higher priority” than a rush to elections, he said.
There will be no rush to elections. Let us be clear here.
There will be no election until after the next succession. And the
electoral map will be rewritten such that there can only be one winner of
the election....and that will not be the red shirts, Thaksin or anyone
affiliated to them.
The junta and its appointed bodies have to write a new
constitution and enact unspecified measures to “reform” Thai politics and
Several members of Prayuth’s new cabinet were also members of the
government appointed after the 2006 coup. Pridiyathorn Devakula, a former
Bank of Thailand governor who will serve as Prayuth’s deputy premier for
the economy, was finance minister after that coup. Sommai, the new finance
minister, served as Pridiyathorn’s deputy before resigning in 2007 after a
court convicted him of abuse of power over suspension of state agency
official three years earlier.
“Recently, Sommai Phasee has said he would focus on tax reforms and
boosting the economy,” said Tim Leelahaphan, an economist at Maybank Kim
Eng. “We believe it is hard to see exciting policies from him or this
interim cabinet that focuses on economic reforms rather than populist
From the military, Prawit Wongsuwan, a former army chief and defense
minister, will be a deputy prime minister and defense minister, Thanasak
Patimaprakorn, the supreme commander of the armed forces, will be a deputy
prime minister and foreign minister and Anupong Paochinda, a former army
chief, will be interior minister.
Prajin Juntong, the air force chief who has overseen the economy for the
junta since the coup, will be transport minister, Chatchai Sarikulya, the
assistant army chief, will be commerce minister, Paibool Khumchaya, the
army assistant commander-in-chief, will be justice minster, and Narong
Pipathanasai, the head of the navy, will be education minister, for which
he is clearly well - qualified!
The NCPO has control over the ministires that have always
been considered the wealthiest for the people in power - transport,
interior and finance.
The new cabinet has only two female members, Tourism and Sports Minister
Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul and Deputy Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn.