Monday, October 24, 2011
Plate is worried about lèse-majesté, the Thai laws that protect their King and Queen from unfavourable commentary. Although mention is made of the WikiLeaks report - about a war against Thaksin and Prem Tinsulanond as schemer-in-chief for the palace - he allows Thaksin to shy away from the topic by saying "if I were to comment on this, I would say, let's forget the past." If Vogel's biography about Deng leaves readers hungry for more, Plate's third book of his Giants Of Asia series makes one wonder why he chose Thaksin as a case study if he can't get the simplest truth out of him.
He lets Thaksin argue his wife's Land-Purchase Deal was above board because it was done through a public auction. He lets Thaksin present the sale of Shin Corporation to Temasek as a divestment to deflect criticism of mixing politics with private business. Instead of confronting Thaksin with the low price wife Pojaman paid - one third of the prior-assessed value - and the clever structure of the Shin deal to evade Thai taxes, Plate parks the inconvenient details at the back of the book, under "Appendix".
Who cares whether Thaksin has 8 or 12 cell phones? Or how many passports he carries. Or that he used the work site toilet while making impromptu check on the construction progress of the Suvarnabhumi Airport. Or that that he loses when playing golf with Goh Chok Tong. Thaksin blames the weather in Singapore, "Yes, and maybe also the helicopter security overhead all the time... bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-boo all the time." [laughs] (page 83). Wait a minute, who pays for the "helicopter security"? Aren't we told the PM's package is all pay but no perks?
If you go for that kind of reading material, here's how the two pontificate over Mahathir's pension (US$3,000 a month) and Thaksin's salary as Prime Minister of Thailand (also US$3,000 a month - but no pension, according to Thaksin) :-
Tom Plate: "Speaking of Lee... someone said to me, 'Do you realize that Lee Kuan Yew, as minister mentor', even when he was only a minister mentor, not the prime minister, 'was making a government salary of millions of dollars a year? What do you think of that?' "
Plate ask Thaksin, "You know what Lee Kuan Yew has said?"
Plate: "He said, 'pay peanut, get monkey!' "
The book is still unavailable in Bangkok, despite being in bookstores in other cities in the region such as Singapore. But don't waste your money, just borrow it from the National Library for comic relief.