Sunday, August 22, 2004

"I pledge my allegiance to the City of Angels..."

With one week to go, the election campaign for Bangkok Governor heats up...

The rains seem to have been heavier this year, the cool torrents lashing down in sheets, washing the filth from the streets of Bangkok. But the grime just doesn't go away. It keeps coming back, coating the nightmare landscape, objects, people...that rancid, ubiquitous layer of filth that infuses everything...

The election campaign for Bangkok Governor is on...

A better economy and more money for middle and upper class Thais isn’t enough to blunt the long string of questionable statements and actions from the Thai PM. Like the claim that 4 soldiers killed in an army raid back in January "deserved to die." There's a "som nam na" (deserving of misfortune) sentiment building against billionaire boy and his band of boondoggle brokering bunglers. Early in his term, Thaksin could do no wrong but now it's the Midas touch in reverse...

Fearing a drubbing for any candidate fielded or formally endorsed by his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party, Thaksin is ostensibly steering clear of any involvement in the August 29 election for Bangkok's new governor. He's got the police force and army sewn up so to be genial and fair and in the hopes of a healthier democracy he's decided to watch from a distance. (Oh, the seedy looking bloke skulking by the corner is a good bet...ask if he'll hold your passport and valuables while you nip in for a quick one...)

The truth has been harder to keep down, as at least 3 candidates have been mentioned as receiving the support of the TRT. Three that deny this backing by the party that denied the endorsements while still hoping to sway potential voters with that non-support...

So who's on the honour roll of Thailand's finest, the straight shooters, the benevolent souls who wish to offer their dedication to the selfless position of governor of Bangkok?

"Here's the book full of mugshots mate, take a look and tell us what yer thinkin' is. Seen 'em anywhere?"

Chuwit Kamolvisit

One of the at least 3 candidates who has at some point received unofficial backing from some within the TRT.

The name invokes images of bug-eyed theatrical pleas and claims of innocence. Long known in Bangkok as a purveyor of female flesh in the string of massage parlours he owns, Chuwit was in the news in a big way last year after this demolition. As any innocent person would do, he went into hiding (or was kidnapped, depending on who you believe) following reports that he had masterminded the destruction to expedite the building of a new hotel. Whoever was behind the early morning annihilation surely wanted to avoid those annoying little details like having to deal with those people who owned businesses and made a livelihood there.

Like a cornered patsy running into a crowded street from a back alley to escape his attackers, Chuwit then cried "bribery" long and loud. "Bribery" as in the 20 million baht per month he claimed to have been paying police to allow him to operate the high-end brothels that helped make his fortune. Weeping like a schoolgirl for the cameras, Chuwit actually seemed to convince many of the authentic nature of his public display. Not the only merchant of lascivious lechery in the land of leering loose-limbed ignorant occidentals, but the only one treated so unfairly by the boys in brown...

This ongoing drama has created a strange pathos for Chuwit (or perhaps expectations of future comic relief) in the forgiving hearts of Thais and he seems to have a legitimate shot at the governor's seat. This is the official endorsement from Pistonhips for the peddler prince of prurience. The potential for farce is just too irresistible. In the past, a long line of Thai politicians have called news conferences that are held in front of garish neon signs that adorn Bangkok's handful of red light districts, so they can announce with a straight face that It's illegal, so it can't exist.

"My utterance, nay the very entity-unto-myself, crackling energy of almightiness surrounding my proclamation supercedes all else, even reality and makes this structure, these scarred and haggard faces with no names, these broken lives and parasitic exploitative fortunes made for others, all a twisted figment of the collective imagination."

Maybe the same far-removed, isolated and privileged thinking that can't comprehend why anyone would take the merest notice at the subtle and nuanced debacle that launched Chuwit into the spotlight in the first place. Ironically it has also provided him with a great deal of publicity and probably increased his chance of winning this race.

The prospect of Chuwit standing proud, true and tall and making those unctuous denials is something that somehow makes him the most appropriate person for the job. Having made billions off that which doesn't exist, having failed to liquidate that which he used to exploit that which is not an issue, now in charge of the city that is free from that which never lined his pockets with the misery of others. "The Pimp Governor of Bangkok" somehow has a nice artificial ring to it. Go Chuwit!!! (We expect cut-rate massages in the ethereal nether world of non-existent bordellos once you assume your rightful position.)

Chalerm Yubamrung

Another candidate with ties to Thaksin (and in fact a member of the ruling Thai Rak Thai party) who is now playing down that connection. We're confident that were he elected there would be no strange revisionist history of whose logic only he understood and that allowed a renewed relationship with his old friend.

A caring fatherly sort who always looks out for the two rambunctious lads who are his sons. Unfortunately the lads have let him down at times. Sure they only copped a few poppers...err, that's accused of having popped a copper. But the rogue in question has been cleared so we can't cast aspersions after things have been so thoroughly investigated and tried before impartial judges. In fact, this is a testament to the resolve of Chalerm at having withstood incredible stress during the time his son was unfairly being hounded for something he was ultimately cleared of. Let it stand as a reminder of what those involved in various criminal justice systems the world over have long known regarding the unreliability of eyewitnesses. When it's initially a dozen or more whittled down to 6 or 7, it's still an indication of how unreliable those 6 or 7 were, despite the fact their stories may have corroborated one another.

If elected, Chalerm could spend millions on a study of physiognomy with himself as the specimen, all for the benefit of mankind and the elevation of Thailand to a position among the world leaders in cutting-edge research. The goal would be to find out if that look that seems to afflict the wealthy and connected and becomes a permanent fixture over time, is genetic, or if it actually results from the lifelong feelings the person is imbued with and that ingrain themselves in the waxy, sneering visage. That smug, almost mocking look that says "Thank whatever gods there are that my attainment of wealth and status has elevated me above mere mortals, free from the same consequences for actions that most accept as a responsibility of being alive..."

This past week he was asked to withdraw from the race by the TRT in hopes of siphoning off some of his support to another candidate, Pavena Hongsakul.

Pavena Hongsakul

The lovely Pavena. Beauty runs in the family, her sister a former Miss Thailand Universe. Is she too good to be true? A champion of abused women and a protector of children she has been praised by many for raising awareness about these issues. A social activist who if elected could use her position to help alleviate the injustices suffered by society's most vulnerable. Pavena has also been singled out as Thai Rak Thai's candidate, something she denies. Get to the dance first...who you go home with at the end of the night is something that can be obfuscated, justified or just plain lied about the next morning...

Apirak Kosayothin

Latest poll results put Apirak as the frontrunner. Free from any political baggage, he looks like the choice of most middle-class Bangkokians. A member of the Democrat party, the absence of any perceived meddling by Thaksin et al as well as the knowledge that if elected he would be a much-needed check against complete TRT control, makes him the current favourite. His well-scrubbed image earned as a successful businessman is another positive aspect working for Apirak.

Bhichit Rattakul

Bhichit, a former governor of Bangkok from 1996-200, rounds out the top 5 in popularity, according to recent polls. His late entry into the contest has skewed earlier standings and turned the campaign into a real race. While appearing to be a long shot, the last week of campaigning is sure to be full of many surprises and Bhichit may pick up some last minute "devil-we-know" votes.

Bhichit has even received some support from TRT MPs though this doesn't sit well with their leader. In trying to set matters straight regarding all the various warnings about which candidates TRT members are allowed to support while trying to highlight a long tradition of fairness in Thai politics, Thaksin said:

"We are a democratic country and we can say whatever we want if it is not beyond the boundary. If it is, the party will stop them."

And on that magnanimous note, the last week should be full of unexpected turns and unintentional farce. Votes will be bought, deals will be made and in the end someone will emerge from the filth, ready to tackle the problems and challenges that face this proud and great city!

Recent poll results

Candidate websites:

Apirak Kosayothin

Pavena Hongsakul

Chuwit Kamolvisit

Chalerm Yubamrung

Bhichit Rattakul

There are 22 candidates in total.

*Some time later, Pistonhips receives a strange call requesting his presence. Pistonhips walks into the pre-arranged meeting place and sidles up to the bar. 2 men come up beside him, one driving a knife into his hand that is laying on the bar, pinning it to the wooden surface while the other starts garroting him from behind...*

"Achhh...ahhh...Jaysus...lads, relax it's only words that hardly anyone's gonna read anyway. Hcchaaa *gasp*...ahhhhhh...give me a I mean please let me go , I’ll add a's not real, satire pure and simple...aaieeeeeeeeeeeEEE!!!!

Cross-posted at:Flogging the Simian