Sukhumbhand at the FCCT
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Sukhumbhand at the FCCT

Last night, Bangkok Governor and Democrat Party Leader Mr Sukhumbhand Paribatra spoke at the FCCT.

A summarized version of his presentation is below. Have cut out some of his fluff about his proposed projects – well you can only write so much at one time without a break so that is what missed out. Remember he was speaking as Bangkok Governor in his presentation.

I am both sad and happy to be here after the most tragic period in the 227 year history of Bangkok. Thirty-seven buildings were lit on fire. Significant damage done to private buildings although the damage to public space [BP: BMA only?] is 182 million Baht. Bangkok people have been traumatized. It is the greatest crisis in the history of Bangkok. When Thailand’s capital was previously sacked it was foreigners. This time, despite some anonymous reports of some Cambodian involvement, it is Thais. There is no one else to blame.
/>Central government willl need to play a role in PR, soft loans and hand-outs, but the BMA will have to play a major role. Key to the task though is reconciliation. It is not certain that people in Bangkok are certain that this government can do the task or would entrust the task to this government. Our [BP: From the rest what he says he is referring to the BMA here] first task is providing relief so need to look after this. We are doing this and 70,000 persons who have been affected have registered.

It took only one day to clean up Bangkok with the help of 5,000 BMA staff and 10,000 volunteers. The big clean-up day last Sunday was psychological turning point for Bangkokians. For those who were not aligned, it was the beginning of a new Bangkok.

The damage done to the private sector is more problematic than damage to public spaces. Psychological rehabilitation is also important concern. Process is No 1 concern and Bangkoians need safety. CCTVs are physiologically important for belief of safety and will more quickly implement the plan to have more of them in Bangkok. We also have trained 15,000 neighborhood watch volunteers. We will also have big events like tree-planting events.
/>Reconciliation is a must. Must unite Bangkok. I don’t really care about national level, but for Bangkok it is a necessity.
/>Will have a team Bangkok to make Bangkok a better city. I have a number of projects in mind. BMA currently administers 435 schools, mainly elementary/primary and junior high. We are going to introduce a new syllablus talking about responsibilities in democratic system, good governance, rule of law, and the evil of corruption [BP: Yes, he used the word “evil”]. Must teach the children not to burn down their home. Bangkok must never be burnt down again.

BP: On one level, he was following the standard Democrat party line pretty much in his presentation. He didn’t make any mention of the people who died, it was just the buildings burnt down. Then again, he didn’t call anyone a terrorist or even assign blame to anyone.

The Q&A is below. Didn’t actually write down the Qs at the time, but have gone from memory:

Q – On his role in negotiations.

A – No one know whether a solution was possible or not. It dawned on me after a discussion with PM that the negotiator(s) that the government were using weren’t meeting in person with the red leaders. As I needed to met with the red leaders on city business, I spoke to the PM about talking with the red shirt leaders. The PM told me to listen to them and I did. Nattawut can talk a lot so I couldn’t say anything anyway! My role became more formal after the Silom attacks. I spoke with the reds and they moved from offering an immediate dissolution of parliament to dissolution in 30 days and also to withdraw from the Sala Daeng intersection leading to Silom Road and a couple of hundred metres and agreed to further withdraw back to Sarasin Road area if the government would withdraw the security forces from the intersection as well.
/>I was then scheduled to have another meeting with Nattawut on Saturday at 3pm, but at 2pm was told to delay it.

Q – On whether he detected any pattern in the arson attacks
/>A – I don’t know if pattern of violence. I do think it was pre-mediated though. CentralWorld was the only building in Rajaprasong torched [BP: Actually, Big C Ratchadamri was also torched]. However, the prime target and symbol of state power was Royal Thai Police HQ and that was within the protest site, but it was not touched. Hotels in area with connections with reds, Grand Hyatt Erawan and Intercontinental, weren’t.

Q – On whether the shift from Ratchadomnern, the site of protests in the past, to Rajaprasong, signified a political shift in  power.
/>A – No. I think that the reds occupied Rajaprasong as could simply place more pressure on the government.

Q – It was mainly middle class, younger middle class people, who were involved in the clean-up. Was this really representative?
/>A– Reconciliation must proceed at pace. On it being young middle class people coming out and not lower classes, it was young peoplel and it meant something. Normally, people complain about young people not being involved and staying on the sidelines. This time they did get involved. Is anything ever truly representative?

Q – What about reconciliation efforts with lower class communities in Bangkok?
/>A – For red communities in Bangkok, we will plan community activites.
/>A – On who was attending the protests when the protesters moved completely to Rajaprasong a new pattern emerged. Early morning numbers were very low numbers. You would have at most 3,000 in morning. This increased by 6pm, and then even more by 8 pm all the way up to 70,000-80,000 people. These weren’t Chiang Mai people who came to Bangkok for the day.

Q – About negotiating with Thaksin.
/>A – If you say that Mr X is responsible for everything that happened then only logic tells you that you must deal with Mr. X. One cannot deny that having the terrorism charges against Mr X makes it difficult to deal with him. The government drew the circle so now it must be the square in the circle.

BP: He doesn’t refer to Thaksin by name, but uses Mr X without specifically saying he is referring to Thaksin.

Q – There were reports that you met Thaksin in Brunei, what happened?
/>A –  (After a long pause). I felt as if I needed to do something. I would only do something only with the knowledge of PM. (Despite a few follow-up questions from Crispin, who asked the question, for more details he didn’t provide any more details)

BP: BP readers would know that Thaksin and Sukhumbhand met in Brunei…

Q – About the lack of mourning.
/>A – I wore black for three days. I felt we need to move ahead. I don’t think the crisis is over if people continue to favour one color over the other.

Q – On Abhisit and reconciliation.
/>A – I don’t question the PM’s commitment to national reconciliation but he will face problems on who to deal with. Red leaders are in jail, who then? Arisman. No, thank you. Mr X? Well he is an international terrorist now. When someone who is party to conflict wishes to bring about reconciliation, they can either negotiate or impose their solution on others. The PM may not be willing to do either.

Q – About laws against illegal demonstrations.
/>A – (Talked how powers of Bangkok Governor is limited). It is odd that elected governor doesn’t have control of police in Bangkok, but unelected governors in the provinces do have.

Q – On preparedness.
/>A – Fire brigades weren’t allowed in to access the fires by security officials or were fired upon. Red shirts refused to allow us to move fire trucks to be based in the protest site in advance.

BP: Some interesting comments and basically confirmation (although he has plausible deniability) that he met Thaksin in Brunei. Don’t think there is much love for him from the Democrats).

More when get some free time.