rascott.com                                                                                 news, views and an occasional blog...

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Scotland's missed opportunity

21 September 2014

So Scotland voted to retain its umbilical cord to England and the union.

I 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.

Yes 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.

Two 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.

The 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.

Polls 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 come again.

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.

The referendum 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 the SNP.

The 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 generation.

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.

And 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.

Wise 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.

The 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.

(One 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 big response

20 September 2014

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 and rationally.

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

13 September 2014

Here 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."

This is a link to the editorial.

The 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 Britain."

The 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.

So much for better together - the Tories argue that Britain is better together but that Britain is better outside the European community. How does that make sense?

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.

A few comments following on from the editorial are worth quoting:

- the 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.

- I 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....

- The 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 independence

- So 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 modern history?

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.

On the brink

10 September 2014

In the interests of balance this is today's better together editorial in the FT.

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 you.

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 vote Yes!

Brits, booze and airplanes can be a toxic mix

10 September 2014

A Dubai court today heard that an airline passenger threatened to kill an Emirates Airline flight attendant after she refused to serve him more alcohol.

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 from London.

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.

Why is it always the Brits - there is something toxic about the British, alcohol and airplanes?

But 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.

And 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.

If 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

9 September 2014

The 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 aircraft."

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 at anyone.

The 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.

Their 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.

The 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.

The 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."

The 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."

The 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.

The report, while not fully conclusive in establishing the cause of the crash, should but will not end some misleading, and in some cases offensive, conspiracy theories. 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 $4,500 each.

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 last Friday.

“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 Dubai.

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 runways.

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 delays.

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 experience.

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 passengers.

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 been missed.

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 falsehood.

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 embarrassment.

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 Xinjiang.

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 jelly.

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 Extremism

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 come.

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 The Guardian

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 be.

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 glee.

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 matter.

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 voices.

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 society.

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 policies.”

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.